Despite Haley Endorsement, Millions Spent on Attack Ads, Romney Finished Distant Second

It was exciting while it lasted, but now it is over. After a big win by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Republican primary candidates have moved on to Florida.

Democrats did not come out in large numbers and vote in the Republican primary in the low country as expected, giving Gov. Mitt Romney a disappointing loss.

The outcome was very disappointing for Gov. Nikki Haley who along with her husband had endorsed and campaigned hard for Romney. Our smiling, optimistic Governor was absent when Romney made his modified concession speech Saturday night. Haley detractors were rejoicing and hoping the weak support for Romney indicates a lack of support for Haley.

Newt won with 40 percent of the vote, while Romney received 28 percent. Santorum and Paul were far behind with 17 and 13 percent. Santorum’s strength came from conservative Christians. Ron Paul did much better in South Carolina than he did four years ago, when he received only four percent of the total vote in the Republican primary. His positions on government spending and constitutional issues have attracted an additional crop of solid adult followers. In addition, his anti-war and drug legalization positions have attracted an assortment of younger followers, some of whom have been viewed as “damaging” his otherwise wholesome and patriotic image with conservative voters.

There were essentially no ads attacking Ron Paul, although he had several ads savagely attacking Santorum and others attacking Gingrich.

Gingrich attacked Romney on his financial dealings and Gingrich was attacked on his past record of failed marriages. Santorum stood out as the candidate who spent less on attacking opponents with advertising. His long shot at the nomination is somewhat dependent on Romney and Gingrich and their supporters destroying each other as the campaign progresses.

Newt Gingrich connected with South Carolina voters with his willingness to take the fight to President Obama and the liberal media. He was the only candidate with the courage to state emphatically that the liberal media was openly supporting Obama. He also identified with well-informed voters when he repeatedly drew a contrast between his candidacy and a “Saul Alinsky Socialist.” The other candidates were not willing to draw that contrast, even if they understood.

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Mike Scruggs