Newt's Night

It’s clear that Newt Gingrich really man-handled the media, and this by itself is probably the largest factor in his overcoming what had been a significant deficit in the polls just more than a week ago.  Even early this week, Drudge continued to run stories of polls in which Romney led Gingrich by double digits in South Carolina.  There were four things that fundamentally changed this, four events really, and there is no denying that these led to Gingrich’s success in the Palmetto state, where it looks as though Gingrich will have won there with more than 40% of the vote.  That’s a rousing turnaround, with Mitt showing in the high twenties, followed by Santorum, and then Paul farther back in the teens.  Let us examine the four major game-changers that put Gingrich over the top.

The first significant boost for Newt Gingrich was his debate performance on Monday night. His public demolition of Juan Williams’ premise simply made him the runaway winner in that debate.  He was sharp, and at times afire, and it surely seemed he brought passion to explaining why work is important to the very real question of human dignity, as seen through the eyes of conservatives. It was not insignificant that on the evening, Romney seemed trapped, and cold, and distant, and his few warm moments seemed to fade as they went on.  Gingrich, in stark contrast exuded the confidence of his convictions, and this permitted him to start the week out with a big win.

The next event that had significant impact, and the one that may have really turned the ship around most quickly was when on Tuesday evening, in an interview with Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin said she would vote for Newt Gingrich if she was a voter in South Carolina.  This was a signal to many who had hoped Palin would enter that they ought to vote for Gingrich, and from that moment forward, you could see a shift in momentum that ran through the day and on into Wednesday, until the big ABCNews smear of Gingrich broke on Drudge.  It threatened to stop him cold, but a few things happened that caused the story to be insignificant.

The first thing that really prevented Newt from getting too terribly hammered over the ABC story was that voters were suspicious, but they were moved to double suspicion when on Thursday morning, Rick Perry withdrew from the race, and promptly endorsed Newt Gingrich. This stopped the bleeding long enough for the last major event that turned things for Gingrich.

The Thursday night debate merely provided Gingrich an opportunity to respond, but also to deal harshly with the media. His rough treatment of CNN’s John King, followed by statements fro the other candidates more or less in support of Gingrich’s statement, but later capped off by the airing of the Marianne Gingrich interview that provided no new revelations. Combined with the fact that he had clearly won the debate over a rattled Mitt Romney, this set the Newt train rolling at full force again, and it’s clear that it never looked back.

Of all these factors, one in particular stands out in my view, because until Palin made her statement on the matter of for whom she would vote if she was a South Carolina resident, Newt’s debate performance had turned some heads, but hadn’t got the momentum going thoroughly.  It was after Palin made her statement that things started to turn in Newt’s favor, and voters clearly started crossing over to his side.  Skepticism of the media in conservative quarters sustained him through the story until he could punctuate the matter Thursday night, but what got voters going in his direction was the Mama Grizzly, and you’d better believe Gingrich knows it, and in fact gave her credit for it earlier.