Newt Gingrichs consolation prize: S.C. victory
And then there were two — if you still count Ron Paul as a Republican presidential candidate.
Officially, Rep. Paul remains in the “race” despite not recording a single first-place finish in the 41 primaries and caucuses already held.
But unofficially, Mitt Romney effectively clinched the nomination two weeks ago when Rick Santorum, who can fairly claim GOP runner-up status, dropped out.
So long before Newt Gingrich’s unofficial exit Wednesday (he’ll make it official within a week), the former House speaker knew that he would become the first winner of our state’s Republican presidential primary not to capture the White House nomination.
Realistic conservatives, in and beyond the Palmetto State, shouldn’t mourn the demise of the S.C. Republican winner/nominee streak that began with the first GOP presidential primary here in 1980.
Even the more than 243,000 South Carolinians who voted for Mr. Gingrich on Jan. 21 should have long ago conceded that his chances of making Barack Obama a one-term president were slim at best. After all, his only other triumph came in his home state of Georgia.
Sure, Mr. Gingrich has a spunky showman’s flair. And many folks on the right are charmed by his knack for chastising mainstream media members.
Mr. Gingrich demonstrated that much-practiced talent two days before our primary during a debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, upbraiding CNN’s John King for opening with a question about his second wife’s allegation that he asked her for an “open marriage.” Assorted pundits cited that crowd-pleasing scolding as a turning point in the S.C. race.
But when Mr. Gingrich exhibited his volatile temper to far less positive effect in the following weeks, Republicans were reminded that his erratic moods, rambling musings and high “negatives” with non-conservatives could spell general-election disaster.
Within a week after winning in our state, he also undermined his prospects by suddenly, then repeatedly, expressing zeal for moon colonization.
He wasn’t kidding.
Still, Mr. Gingrich will always have that special Saturday night when his presidential chances peaked thanks to his rousing 12-point S.C. victory over Mr. Romney.
And before S.C. Democrats poke fun at that outcome from three months ago, they should recall who won their presidential primary here eight years ago: