It changed so suddenly. Huntsman out Monday. Today, Rick Perry is out.
Huntsman, barely a factor in South Carolina, threw his support to Mitt Romney. Rick Perry, more of a factor, threw his support to Gingrich. The Monday debate in South Carolina is a critical detail. Polling before it showed a Romney lead. Polling after it showed a Gingrich surge.
Then Sarah Palin endorsed Newt Gingrich.
Then news broke that Rick Santorum, not Mitt Romney, really won Iowa.
Then Rick Perry dropped out and endorsed Newt Gingrich.
Tonight, at 8pm ET, there is a CNN debate.
Then Saturday, the voters vote.
And behind scenes there is a quiet operation — an operation designed to get Ron Paul the nomination in a fractured field. All the week’s events play right into Dr. Paul’s plan that few even see coming.
We’ll get into it all in the Horserace.
Gingrich heads into Saturday riding a huge wave of momentum. The Second Mrs. Gingrich could potentially spoil it with her interview on the warpath, but the Gingrich daughters responded quickly and could lessen the blow.
In fact, while her side of the story is seedy and hostile, it is an open question if Americans will have any sympathy for a woman who herself destroyed Gingrich’s first marriage. She’s no puritan here and Gingrich’s children seem willing to fully defend him.
Gingrich also has Sarah Palin and Rick Perry. So tonight all eyes will be on him as he comes under a withering attack from Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul. He is tonight’s real frontrunner in South Carolina.
A prominent friend told me some weeks ago that he noticed an odd thing. In his state, several people who have been successful in getting themselves known as very probably Mitt Romney delegates for the Republican National Convention are also his supporters. And they are not just my friends’ supporters, they are also long time staunch Ron Paul supporters.
Why then would they, long time staunch Ron Paul supporters, align this year with Mitt Romney? He made calls and talked to friends in other states. All of them saw the same thing happening — long time Dr. Paul supporters working to become delegates to the convention pledging to support Mitt Romney and others.
If the field stays fractured at this level, with only a few people, but each getting delegates enough to prevent the front runner from an outright majority, there will be a second vote at the Republican National Convention.
Delegates are only locked in for their candidate during the first vote. After the first vote, they can vote for whoever they want. So if Mitt Romney is unable to clear an outright majority on the first ballot, suddenly he could see some of his delegates turn on him — turn and go back to Ron Paul.
It is an ingenious strategy premised on a convention where no one gets majority support early. It plays well to a primary calendar where the delegates are first awarded proportionally. Who knows if it is a campaign strategy or just his volunteers, but the Paul campaign has been active now for four years trying to take over local parties.
It may pay off if the GOP doesn’t unite around a candidate soon.
It remains Mitt Romney’s race to lose. Romney is nationally still the front runner. He remains the pick of the establishment and the Washington GOP crowd. He has the money and the ballot access the others don’t.
But the GOP will go vote for Romney holding their nose. They may start settling, but they do not like him. And now we know that not only did he get less votes in 2012 in Iowa than he did in 2008, he also lost yet another election.
Each day this race drags on the veneer of electability wears off and he has to start answering questions that involve phrases like “Cayman Islands” and “Swiss bank account.” No more man of the people.
He should be the next to drop out. The rallying of evangelicals in Texas did him no good. Gingrich leads him among evangelicals 2 to 1 and is trouncing him in South Carolina. He may have won Iowa, but his remaining in the race, like Perry before him, now helps Mitt Romney.
Look for Mitt Romney to start throwing bones to Santorum in the debate and on the campaign trail.