Let's face it, the new-found love for Gingrich is the pepper in the eye of the establishment side of the G.O.P. Tent. And that endears Newt to me just a little, but that's not enough to win me over.
My analysis of why Newt won South Carolina is two-fold. (H.T. CNN Exit Poll data)
1. Most (88%) of the Republican Primary electorate in South Carolina may be persuaded by debate performance, which clearly favored Newt.
2. Newt's demagoguery skills are enough to overcome his past; politically, professionally, and personally, at least in South Carolina.
If we really get into the cross-tabs, you may even see a correlation that evangelicals make up the majority of the T.E.A. Party faction of the Republican tent in S.C. It is possible these folks may have taken Sarah Palin's advice quite literally.
In addition to Sarah's admonition, it would appear that Romney fails to attract evangelicals (not due to his Mormonism, but due to his moderate/liberal attraction). I think its possible that there was a general coalescing of T.E.A. party/Evangelicals that determined by debate performance, that Newt is the only viable anti-Romney (conservative). This does not bode well for Santorum, in effect it makes this a two-tiered, two-man race.
At the top tier conservative ideology well spoken vs. non-offending culling of the moderates while taming hyperbole and demagoguery.
At the lower tier of sane social conservatism vs. insane/youthful libertarian bends. (both of these individuals and their supporters will eventually have to choose one or the other of the top tier, secretly they both hope this goes to convention, but we all know money runs out the longer this thing goes).
I believe that Newt's found the chink in the armor of our "Inevitable" nominee. Which is put simply... Demagogue to victory, and hope the past doesn't catch up with him. Mitt simply won't demagogue, at least not on conservative ideas, he's plum happy going after Newt on "influence peddling". His plan all along is to win the moderates, and he and his handlers must be in agreement, don't offend the moderates/independents.
The odd thing is, I'm not convinced that Newt's entirely over his past... and I'm not talking about his personal life. He seems to see nothing wrong with demagoguing Mitt's private sector success, while trying to muddy the waters on the definition of lobbyist.
Clearly South Carolina voters believe that Newt is electable. They believe he can beat Obama... by debate.
I'm not so convinced that Obama will "lose" any debate... he's got a media that will throw him softball questions, and moderators from the media, that will gladly re-direct the conversation if its not going well for Dear Leader.
At the same time, I don't think Romney's 'don't offend the moderates' strategy is much better, because the path to victory of necessity requires a strong base of G.O.P. drum beating, while convincing the moderates and libertarians, that 4 more years of Obama will be the end of America: land of the Free. Yes 4 more years of Obama is the beginning of America: land of the Total Egalitarian State of Fairness, Equality, and Social Reform as the State sees fit to impose upon its citizens.
As long as Newt is pushing the conversation to the right... I'll forgive his past too. I'm completely undecided at this point, and believe I may end up voting a conscience vote in the primary. My loyalties are mine to give, don't bother trying to tell me it's my fault if Romney wins the nomination, I'm not convinced yet that, that scenario is so bad either.
All that being said. The moniker "Food Stamp President" is brilliant. I think it's amazing how Newt can turn a liberal argument on its ear. I think this is a trait that will be needed to beat Obama and the MSM. However, nothing will be won in the general if people are not awakened to the awful state of the union. If the moderates are culled into security and safety arguments regarding the economy, and if the G.O.P. candidate is demonized to the convincing of moderates that the G.O.P. isn't serious about fixing things (i.e. spending, then taxing to make up for excessive spending) then all is lost.
The arguments must be made for Cut, Cap, Balance. The argument must be made for Entitlement reform. The argument must be made for Tax reform. The argument must be made for reducing, and making more efficient Federal regulation. The argument must be made for Energy independence plan. The argument must be made that these actions will result in more economic activity, and get the capital back in the markets and taking risk again.
One way or another, any of the remaining candidates... should they win the nomination, will get my undivided loyalty.