Monday, 23 January 2012

And the biggest winner in South Carolina is...

Newt Gingrich's stunning victory in the South Carolina Repbulican Primary (above) is an important moment in this year's race to the White House. Had he lost, Mitt Romney, the party establishment's favourite, would have been a shoe-in. Now, it's wide open again.

Of course, Mr Romney will probably still be the candidate in the end. He has oodles of cash. He has staying power. He appeals to independents. But he's lagging in Florida, and he knows it, as two new polls today suggest. Lose there, and he'll have won only one state out of four - his own adopted home state of New Hampshire. He's not even doing that well nationally. For a man whose main appeal is electoral appeal, he doesn't seem to speak to many voters.

In the meantime, the Republicans will continue to give off the distinct aroma of a party that cares more about purity than electability, that's engaged in a complex debate about populism and the very nature of capitalism itself, and that will be busy slinging mud at itself for the next couple of months at least.

It all keeps open the intriguing possibility - still only that - of an open convention, in which Gingrich and Romney fight it out all the way into the summer and the decision's made when delegates gather in Tampa, Florida during August. This was what happened in 1976, when delegates pledged to Ronald Reagan famously crossed the line and voted for then-President Ford. It could happen again.

So the happiest man about South Carolina? It's a certain Mr B. Obama, Washington.

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