Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire may be first to cast their ballots in the GOP presidential race, but neither has a great track record of backing the eventual winner. South Carolina primary voters, on the other hand, have correctly picked every Republican nominee since Ronald Reagan in 1980. This year, Palmetto State Republicans put their perfect record to the test, awarding Newt Gingrich a "stunning" and decisive win over Mitt Romney, a candidate with more money, the backing of the Republican establishment, and a much better organized campaign. Is the odds-on favorite Romney about to break South Carolina's unblemished record, or is his loss in the state a harbinger of bigger losses to come?
Romney will probably break the streak: Despite Romney's South Carolina disaster, he "remains a strong, though no longer prohibitive, favorite for the Republican presidential nomination," say Larry Sabato and Kyle Kondik at Sabato's Crystal Ball. The next batch of primaries and caucuses are a better match for Romney's strengths, and Gingrich is still a weak candidate. "Streaks are meant to be broken, and in all likelihood South Carolina's perfect record" is doomed.
"Romney's coronation: Just delayed, or gone awry?"
History will win this round: We're already in uncharted waters, says Erick Erickson at RedState. While every winning GOP nominee since 1980 has won South Carolina, every one of those candidates "had also won either Iowa or New Hampshire." This year, we have three different winners in those three contests. But South Carolina is still the best gauge of GOP temperament, and Romney's crushing defeat "is about Republican grassroots giving the Washington Republican establishment the finger." The GOP base wants a "fighter" — and "only Newt is left to fight for them."
"Newt Gingrich wins. What it means."
South Carolina's record is over-hyped: The eight presidential elections since 1980 is a "dubious" sample size on which to build a flawless record, says Nate Silver at The New York Times. And Romney's defeat may have "less to do with the place and more to do with the timing." It's not unprecedented for voters to reject an "inevitable" candidate. In the end, "Gingrich's win in South Carolina alone is not enough" to overcome the statistical evidence that Romney will still triumph. "But if [Newt] follows it with a win in Florida, all bets are off."
"Did Gingrich's win break the paradigm?"