Mitt Romney lost twice in one week....
BTW this is the first time that the first three GOP primaries have been won by different candidates.
Byron York's crisp appraisal highlights two key factors--a speedier & sharper old-fashioned ground game:
How did it happen? For one thing, all the talk about Romney having a hugely superior ground organization turned out not to be true. "They did not do the retail politics that a Santorum and a Gingrich have done over time," said Kevin Thomas, chairman of the Fairfield County Republican Party. (Thomas was neutral in the race.) "I think Newt's people, they had more on-the-ground staff, and they worked." There were a lot of them, too; after Gingrich's strong showing in the debates, said Susan Meyers, Gingrich's media coordinator for the Southeast, "We have so many volunteers, our phones are melting right now."
Gingrich's campaign was also faster and more nimble than the Romney battleship. "There is a very strong contrast between the two campaign organizations," said Gingrich adviser (and former George W. Bush administration official) Kevin Kellems. "In military terms, it's speed versus mass. Newt Gingrich's operation, and Newt Gingrich as a man, has a great deal of speed -- intellectual speed, decisiveness. The Romney campaign is much more about money and size, having hired half of Washington D.C. And sometimes, speed beats mass."
It certainly did this time. In the next few days, there will be plenty of analysis attributing Gingrich's victory to other factors: his commanding performances in debate, his next-door advantage in South Carolina, and Romney's now-traditional difficulties in the state. But after all the talk of ground game and debate war, there's a simpler reason Gingrich won: On the stump, in town hall after town hall, across South Carolina, Gingrich has been a markedly better campaigner than Romney.
Newt won across the board with groups in SC. The Daily Caller notes the SC female vote: Newt 36 percent, Mitt 30, Santorum 19 & Paul 13. It appears that ABC's late-hit interview with Newt's second ex- had little if any impact in SC. Blogger Mickey Kaus (t/h Jennifer Rubin) hits one genuine character issue with Newt: his penchant for opportunistically embracing half-baked solutions.
Exit polls also showed Newt's win was part Bain & part Mitt's Mormon faith. The result also seems to me much connected with Romney's lackluster debate performances, versus Newt's. Another factor may well have been also that GOP voters are exquisitely attuned to the bias of liberal Mainstream Media; the GOP base knows that this summer & fall MSM will be totally in the tank for Obama. They want a GOP candidate who, like Newt, will impale MSM types like CNN's condescending Anderson Cooper & smug John King. But at Commentary Blog Jonathan Tobin sees a protracted GOP primary battle as likely damaging, because pro-Obama MSM will have plenty of time to beat up the GOP aspirants.
On to Florida, where ex-Gov. Jeb Bush remains studiously neutral. Given that Florida's primary vote began ten days ago, Romney likely has a head start; 200,000 voters have already voted, some 10 percent of the 2 million total who voted in 2008 in the FL GOP contest. Rich Lowry sees a possible Romney defeat in Florida as triggering a search for a new candidate, because Republican insiders are petrified of the mercurial Gingrich as GOP nominee this fall. Jennifer Rubin issued a clarion call for a GOP rescue entrant. Bill Kristol sees immigration as a Florida hurdle for the border hard-liner Romney, and notes two other problems Mitt may face: Sarah Palin, who endorsed Newt in SC, and Ron Paul's potential to win activist-driven caucus states. Mark Steyn sees Romney not only lacking ability to personally connect, but saddled with a bureaucratic, hidebound staff.
Florida is a winner-take-all state, unlike most GOP primary states. But because Florida moved its primary up a month, forcing Iowa, NH & SC to follow suit, Florida has lost half its delegate count towards the nomination. Thus Romney is in a high-risk spot: a Romney win--long expected--gives him little help towards winning the GOP nod, unless he wins in a landslide; but a Romney defeat--to either Newt or Santorum--destroys his "electability" narrative.
Bottom Line. Expect the unexpected, in this crazy primary season. A brokered GOP convention is a growing prospect.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Conservative Politics