Well the third state contest is in the books and history has been made.  We have never had a different winner for each of the first three contests.  Typically South Carolina picks between the Iowa or the New Hampshire winners so now that model has been broken.

Here’s the state map below:

South Carolina Primary Map
Red = Gingrich, Yellow = Romney

This was an absolute blowout for Newt Gingrich.  Here are the final results below with 100% of the precincts reporting in:

  1. Newt Gingrich – 40.4% (243,153)
  2. Mitt Romney – 27.8% (167,279)
  3. Rick Santorum – 17.0% (102,055)
  4. Ron Paul – 13% (77,993)
  5. Herman Cain – 1.1% (6,324)
  6. Rick Perry – 0.4% (2,494)
  7. Jon Huntsman – 0.2% (1,161)
  8. Michele Bachmann – 0.1% (494)

It always amazes me how people vote for candidates that have dropped out.  Do you not pay attention or are you in denial?

I’m not surprised that Gingrich won, but I am surprised by the margin.  Looking at the map above I’m also surprised by how it looks.  I expected a lot of red upstate, but more yellow in the Low Country – not the case.  Romney performed well in the population centers of Columbia and Charleston, but didn’t do well any where else.  Gingrich appealed to rural voters, Romney didn’t – similar to how he performed in Iowa.  In fact in a number of upstate counties Romney was third with three counties coming in behind Santorum, and one county coming in behind Paul.

What happened to Romney?  Early in the week last week he was leading every poll by anywhere from 10-14 points.

Two debates happened, and Romney was savaged in both.  CBS exit polling showed that 2/3 of those polled said the debates mattered.  Gingrich had phenomenal debate performances with two standing ovations.  Romney’s weaknesses were highlighted.  Santorum had excellent debates as well, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to overcome Gingrich’s momentum.

Two weeks of Romney being declared the winner of Iowa and New Hampshire also took away some momentum that Santorum could have had.  Santorum because of his performance in Iowa was sucked into New Hampshire, and now Monday morning quarterbacking it probably should have gone straight to South Carolina.

Santorum had no money to overcome the negative advertising and robocalls being made against him by the Romney and Paul campaigns and SuperPACs.  Again, if he were declared the winner of the Iowa Caucus fundraising may have gone even better, though he did see a bump.  The endorsements he received came too late and they weren’t accompanied with money and volunteers.  So though he had a list of impressive endorsements they were rendered meaningless.

AP also had some interesting exit polling.  A majority of voters were late deciders and they favored Gingrich by 22%.  He also led among evangelicals and self-described born-again Christians.  So they were able to overlook his marital history.  45% of voters said electability was an important factor and they favored Gingrich.  This is a change from Iowa and New Hampshire.  Among the third that had a negative opinion of Romney’s time as a venture capitalist, he only won 3% of the vote.  Voters concerned about the economy also tilted toward Gingrich.

Gingrich also led among Tea Party voters according to a CBS exit poll.  ABC-Washington Post exit polling shows Gingrich winning both men and women, winning every age group except the 18-29 year-old voting block.  Ron Paul won that by 3%.  A little over two-thirds of voters identified themselves as very conservative (Romney finished third behind Santorum) and somewhat conservative – Gingrich won both groups with 48% and 41% respectively.  Romney won the moderate/liberal vote 34% to 31%.   Just an interesting note that Santorum finished third among evangelicals and Catholics two bases that he really needed to turn out for him.

What happens for here.  Right now with the latest polling Romney has a strong lead in Florida.  Gingrich will likely see a boost there.  Santorum has said he will go onto to Florida, but unlike Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina you can’t retail politic there as well.  It’s a big state… Santorum will need a lot of money to compete well there since there are 10 media markets in Florida.  Ron Paul is skipping Florida (he’s only polling with an RCP average of 9%) to look for delegates elsewhere.  Santorum may want to consider doing likewise, or at least invest as little as possible.

Whatever happens, South Carolina has shaken things up.

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