Gingrich takes South Carolina. That's it! He dominated all other candidates taking all but a few counties. Romney fell hard with this defeat, and Ron Paul & Santorum danced around third & fourth place.
Newt Gingrich won with 40% (243,000 votes) All but, 4counties. Mitt Romney dropped to second with 28% (167,279), winning 4 counties. Santorum took third with 17% (102,055 votes). Ron Paul finished fourth with 13% (77,993 votes). For curiosity sake, Cain (6.324 votes) finished next followed by Perry, Huntsman and a distant Bachmann (454 votes).
On to the exit poll results. It's all Gingrich. He again dominated a vast majority of categories. Including: conservatives, moderates, Tea Party fans, ages 30+, male & females, married couples, all income levels, active & veteran military, evangelicals, protestants & catholics, and those making their candidate choice within the last week. The only category he did not win handily was the pro-life preference going to Santorum (51% of voters).
Clearly, Newt Gingrich's debate performance this past week made the most impact. His strong performance at Monday's Fox debate was impressive. And, his tone to counter the marital controversy was very effective during Thursday's CNN debate. Exit poll data also indicated that voters were greatly influenced by Gingrich's straight talk during this week's debates. The next GOP debate is on NBC Monday night at 9:00pm in Tampa, Florida.
Gingrich was the headline of the day. Yet, should the other be, what happened to Mitt Romney? A series of flubs by Mitt during both debates contrasted the straight talking command of Newt. Romney had performed very well in all previous debates, yet he was not prepared to address issues like the releasing of his tax returns to the public, Romney stated on Fox News today that he would release his 2010 tax returns on Tuesday. Only Gingrich has released his 2010 returns. Santorum and Paul have yet to publicize their tax documents.
Now, on to Florida! Striking questions to consider: Will Mitt sustain his 20%+ lead in Florida? Will Newt's momentum transfer to the sunshine state? How will Newt and Santorum generate enough campaign cash to make a impact in Florida and beyond? The Florida primary will be held on January 31. Early voting in Florida has already begun.