After Mitt Romney's historic sweep of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, many pundits assumed Romney would roll through South Carolina on Jan. 21 and Florida on Jan. 31 — and quickly wrap up the Republican presidential nomination. But the first post–New Hampshire poll of South Carolina put a kink in the conventional wisdom: Romney leads Newt Gingrich by only 2 points, 23 percent to 21 percent. The poll, from Insider Advantage, comes after days of tough attacks on Romney's career at private equity firm Bain Capital, including trailers for a hard-hitting documentary, When Mitt Romney Came to Town, that Gingrich allies are going to air in the Palmetto State. Could Romney and his air of inevitability go down in South Carolina?
Sure, Romney could lose — but it won't matter: I expected Romney to "expand his modest lead in the South Carolina polls" after New Hampshire, so the new poll is surprising, says Nate Silver at The New York Times. But I'd "urge a lot of caution": Insider Advantage isn't the best polling firm — and it's headed by a former Gingrich aide. Besides, even if other polls confirm Romney's Palmetto State slide, his numbers are up nationally and in next-in-line Florida, where a win would more than offset a South Carolina loss.
"Polls show gains for Romney — but not in South Carolina"
Romney will be lucky if the bleeding is contained to S.C.: After voters see the Gingrich super PAC's absolutely "devastating" Bain documentary, South Carolina will probably be out of Romney's reach, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. Lots of people in the state have lost their jobs, and these "powerful" ads show that Romney "made a quarter of a billion dollars by firing the white middle and working class in droves." That's the GOP base, especially in the heartland. As this ad sinks in, I expect "full, if concealed, panic" at Romney HQ.
"Yes, Romney could lose"
First things first — GOP voters must decide what they stand for: I hope Gingrich "sticks with the Bain attacks," says Allahpundit at Hot Air. "Not because I agree with them," but because "I'm curious to see how receptive the GOP base is to them in South Carolina and beyond." If Bain's free-market "'creative destruction' is now anathema to Republican voters," the GOP needs to figure that out ASAP, so "the party can move left and start pandering appropriately." It pains me to say it, but it's not too late to nominate somebody else, even if, like Newt, he "increasingly sounds like Elizabeth Warren."
"Report: Newt set to back off Bain attacks on Romney?"