Live Blogging South Carolina’s Election Returns

7:55 Early exit polls indicate that over 80% of voters say their vote was influenced by the debates.  That’s a strong sign this will be big night for Newt.

More exit polls: more than 40% of voters made up their mind in the last few days – I’ve got to believe most of them went for Newt.

If this is a rout, the networks should call this in about five minutes.

Still more evidence: 66% of turnout is described as conservative – polling has indicated they are solidly for Gingrich.

Keep in mind that Romney went all in in this state in terms of Superpac and his own money – he easily outspent Newt by more than 2-1.

OK, polls are closed….and exit polls give Gingrich the lead by 9%.  38%-29%.

Interesting – Gingrich wins women over Mitt 36%-30%, and they make up 50% of exit polls.

Interestingly, Paul win the under 30 years old, although they are only 9% of the turnout.  I am always amazed how well Paul does with youngsters.  Hard to explain.

Again, a huge class skew – Romney wins the high income people (those more than $200,000), while Newt wins every other income class below.

Already CNN is musing about how Gingrich came in and upset Romney here.  Let’s be clear: this is no upset.  South Carolina is to Newt as New Hampshire was to Mitt.  This is his backyard state.  He was supposed to win this.   The only reason the media is surprised is because they were buying the whole Mitt is inevitable mantra (which they were peddling).  As I noted in an earlier post, this was always the state Gingrich counted on to break out.

Note that the independent vote was up from the 18% in 2008 – it was 26% this time around.  And, in a bit of a surprise, Gingrich won the independents 30% to 27% for Paul.  This bodes well for Gingrich down the road in later states – and in the general election (if he ever gets there!)

65% of those voting supported the Tea Party – and Gingrich cleaned up among them.  Also, in a surprise, he wins the veterans vote, getting 36% of them – much more than Paul, who only got 14% despite his repeated claims that veterans supported him.

Perhaps the most important exit polls result? social issues played almost no role here.  Nor did immigration (in contrast to 2008).  This was all about the economy, and beating Obama. In fact, in looking at the most important candidate quality, 45% said it was “beating Obama” – and Gingrich won those voters 48-39% over Romney.  This is a big blow to Romney’s electability argument heading into Florida.

In another blow to Mitt, among those who are very worried about the economy (79%), Gingrich bests Romney 40-28%. Handling the economy was supposed to be Romney’s strong suit.

So, this is an across the board victory for Newt – but it is a victory that is in his backyard.

What these results suggest is that Mitt still has not demonstrated that he is poised to expand his coalition beyond what he earned in 2008.  It does not mean we should anoint Newt as the front runner. All this does is confirm what I have been telling you for weeks:  the evidence, to date, is that Mitt is a weak candidate.

Looking ahead, Newt has to hope he can capitalize on his more moderate immigration views to draw on Latino support in Florida.  He also has to hope that he can draw on some of Perry’s donors to try to begin addressing Mitt’s substantial fundraising advantage.

Now, keep in mind that after Florida, which votes on Jan. 31, there are only two caucus states voting (Nevada and Maine) and then we wait almost a month before Michigan and Arizona vote.   That period will give Gingrich time to try to ramp up his organization, integrate Perry’s donors into his campaign and generally try to position himself for Super Tuesday in early March.  My guess is he will survive SuperTuesday with victories at least in a couple of states.  In short, I don’t see Gingrich dropping out any time soon.  Yes, the safe money will still be on Romney to win all this, but it is not implausible to believe this is going to be an extended fight.

OK, in an anticlimactic announcement, CNN is projecting Gingrich as the winner. Yawn.  What I really want to know is if I finally hit the jackpot and got all four candidates’ totals right.  Are the other channels making the same projection?

Now the media is in trouble – all those rules of thumb no longer work.  First no one has won South Carolina who didn’t first win either Iowa or NH.  Also, every recent Republican nominee has won South Carolina.  So, are they going to say that Newt will be the nominee, the way they kept touting Mitt’s unprecedented sweep of Iowa and NH?  Of course not.  Which is why you shouldn’t believe any of these “rules of thumb” – they are largely meaningless.

Consistent with my ealier post (and a reason why my colleagues’ projections may be off this time around), fully 64% of voters say debates were important for their decision, and they went overwhelmingly for Newt (49-23%) over Romney. 87% said they were a factor in their vote, and they went for Gingrich 41-26% over Romney.  You can see why Romney reportedly considered dropping out of Monday’s Florida debate.  I can tell you this – he better have answer for the tax question.

It’s fascinating to hear the CNN pundits express amazement at Gingrich’s victory.  It shows how expectations, rather than fundamentals, drive the media’s perceptions.

@Chris – we learned in 2008 that the impact of early voting has been overstated.  Those who vote early are typically partisans who know who they are going to support.  My guess is most of the early voting favors Romney – but that it likely that most of those votes would have been cast for Romney even after the S.C. results. I don’t know that for certain, of course.

Santorum is on – note that even if he’s going to drop out, he won’t announce it tonight.  He has to be disappointed with his vote tonight, particularly given the endorsement he got from the evangelical leaders and his final strong debate performance. Keep in mind that the one state he won, he won because he was able to go door-to-door.  He can’t do that in Florida, and he doesn’t have the money to compete on the air waves.  He is in trouble.  Will he reassess? On the plus side, it looks like he will beat Paul.

@Jessica – Look, I expect a spate of Romney-is-in-trouble stories. but the fact is he’s not in any more trouble now than he was before South Carolina, or at least not in much more trouble.  He was never going to sweep these early states and knock someone out.  I don’t know how often I have to repeat this, but he did worse in Iowa this time than he did four years ago, his victory in NH was average by historical standards, even though it was in his backyard, and South Carolina is simply not a good state for him.  Tonight is really not that big a surprise.  Repeat after me: Not A Big Surprise.

It will be interesting to hear the speeches. Unlike in Iowa, both speakers (Gingrich and Romney) have had plenty of time to script their remarks.  Remember, those remarks will be directed primarily to Florida voters.

Best quote of the night from James Carville comparing Santorum to a headless chicken: “everyone knows the headless chicken is dead except for the chicken!”

Romney is on.  Poor Nikki Haley – she bet on the wrong horse, undoubtedly sucked in by the media narrative that had anointed Mitt.   Bet she’s regretting turning her back on her own Tea Party crowd that elected her in the first place.

Romney has got to go on the offensive against Newt.  He needs to start hammering Newt on Freddie Mac, on past support for health mandates, climate change cap and trade.  This speech is completely superfluous with its attack on Obama.

Ah, finally, he’s taking the mittens off!  who is this unnamed candidate that he is comparing to Obama?  Thinking….thinking…..Newt?  This is a good line of attack – We do not demonize free enterprise.  The problem is that many people don’t think that includes tax shelters.  He needs to make this argument appealing to lower-income workers.  And he’s going to have to walk back from his immigration policies.

So far this is a relatively low-energy speech, but i think it does a good job laying out the principles that will drive his campaign here – he’s going to run on his private sector experience, and cast Newt as a creature of inside-Washington beltway politics.

Ooops – Ann Romney tried to flee the stage, but Mitt grabbed her and brought her back on stage.

Let’s go to the scoreboard.  Remember, this is all about delegates in the end. South Carolina has 25 delegates. 11 go to the overall winner, and 14 are allocated by congressional district.  So Newt has already picked up 11 delegates – he could conceivably get most of the remaining ones. (there are 7 districts, each one has 2 delegates).  Romney picked up 7 delegates in New Hampshire, Newt won none.  So at this early stage, Newt will probably take a slight lead (Iowa delegates haven’t been assigned as yet.)  In the popular vote, Newt  will come close to catching Mitt, but I think he’ll still trail by some 20,000 (all rough estimates at this stage).

OK, Ron Paul is on.  This could be fun.  who is that youngster to Ron’s left?  He has great timing with his “whooos!”  The Paulistas are the best chanters.  “End the Fed”!  When have you ever heard the monetary system booed, and the Constitutional provisions regarding legal tender cheered.  do you think this was poll tested?   Look at the people on stage behind Ron when he begins waxing eloquent about monetary policy  – are they considering his argument, or are they wondering if he’s bonkers? The woman on the right is particularly perplexed – she’s wondering if he took his pill.

Not a good night for Paul.  I thought with the increase of independents, he might win close to 18% – but that’s not going to happen, largely because Newt did so well among this group.

Love the kid. He can “boo” with the best of the adults.  Great kid.  You can be sure the networks wish he would wrap it up.  The people behind him look pretty sober.  I have to think they were hoping for a stronger showing – not last place.

Big event of the night is yet to come: we have to hear what Newt has to say.  I bet it will be vintage Newt – he can give good speech when he’s inspired.  He doesn’t want to wait to long – he needs to catch the seniors in Florida who might be going to bed, but we have to fit Santorum in first.

So, how quickly does Jeb Bush endorse the Mittster (there is no love lost between the Bush’s and Newt.  Remember, Newt sabotaged support for Bush’s tax hike that ultimately contributed to his defeat in 1992.   Poppie is going to enact his revenge.

Looking ahead to Florida – that’s a winner take all state, with 50 delegates at stake.  So it doesn’t help Paul to sink much there -he’ll probably pivot right to Nevada and Maine which are caucus states.  That could help Mitt a bit in Florida.

Ok, Rick is on.  No sweater vest! What does that mean?  is that a subconscious concession?

This is an interesting speech. I’m wondering if Rick is looking beyond Florida?  Or is this a concession speech? He can’t get any delegates in Florida.  Is he going to concede?  This sounds like he’s leading up to a concession!

Yeah!  A shout out for Guns and Bibles!   Bitterness too!

Nope. No concession. Not yet.  He’s going to Florida.  Sigh.  We DON”T pick Rick – at least not in South Carolina.  And not likely in Florida either.  Still, it’s clear what his strategy will be -he’s going after the working class vote.  Rick Santorum: working class hero!   Look, he’s picked up on one of Romney’s vulnerability: he’s the canidate of bankers and country club members.  That’s a wealthy group – but not a very big one.  (Who is yelling in the back, and what are they saying?)

Well, let’s see if Rick reconsiders are he gets to Florida.  He doesn’t sound like it.  But neither did Huntsman when he bragged that his third-place finish in NH gave him a ticket to ride to South Carolina, only to drop out a few days later.

OK, let’s get Newt on before the seniors are in bed in Florida……

Ron is on one-on-one with Wolf and he concedes what I thought was the case: he’s not going to even bother going to Florida, and instead will go straight to the caucus states.  So Florida is going to be essentially a two-person race, but Rick will be there to hurt Newt, while Ron’s absence will help Mitt.  AGain, the polling dynamics in Florida will change because of tonight, but the fundamentals there favor Mitt.  There’s lot of transplanted New Englanders down there.  He’s already been buying extensive air time.  He’s probably leading in the early voting.  But, of course, there are those two debates!

One other interesting exit poll result: more people thought Mitt ran an unfair campaign than they did Newt.  This touches on a larger point I’ve made:  the cure for SuperPac money is more SuperPac money.  It’s straight out of Federalist Paper #10: how do you cure the mischief of factions?  Expand the polity to encompass more factions!  That’s what happened in South Carolina: Newt got his own SuperPac!

Wolf Blitzer just recited my blog, point for point.  At least give me a shout out Wolf!  (and, if I hit the perfecta on my vote prediction, that goes for the rest of you too!)

Hey, are you watching the CNN feed showing Newt’s stage area – see them all “filming” for dissemination, YouTube feeds, etc?  Cool!

The CNN talking heads are disseminating the Republican establishment talking points right now.  You can be sure they are sending out their twitter feeds undercutting Newt right now: his ethics violation, his leadership failures, his instability.  The problem is that this is precisely what drives the Tea Party into Newt’ s corner.  And they simply do not trust Romney.  He’s a country-club Republican – the antithesis of the Tea Party voter.

David Gergen just repeated the canard that Mitt had South Carolina in his grasp – he never had this state in his grasp.  Never. The odds were always in Gingrich’s favor to win – but perhaps not by this much.  The margin of the victory – which looks right now to be almost exactly what I predicted (how often can I say that?  Not often enough, since it won’t likely happen again all year) was affected by the debates, but this was always Gingrich’s state to lose.  Always.

While we are waiting for Newt, I might as well address another issue: can we finally bury the idea that Gingrich wasn’t going to be a viable candidate in this race?  Clearly, that’s not the case.  He may not win (indeed, I still think the odds are against him) but of the 8 candidates that began this race, it’s down to Mitt and Newt.  Those who dismissed him back in July (almost everyone but me) were wrong.

Big speech here for Newt.  He has to attack hard by building on his win here in a way that appeals to Florida voters.  How does he do this?  By appealing to low and middle-income Republicans, by hinting that his unnamed opponent is part of the banking/high finance/Wall St. crowd that got us in this mess, by saying a muddled moderate can’t be Obama and by emphasizing his electability and debating skills.  His goal is to motivate the Tea Party crowd even at the risk of scaring the hell out of the Republican establishment.

OK, who can explain how Callista’s hair never moves?  Is it artificial?   Lacquered?  Answers, please.

Newt’s on – no teleprompter for him!  (He just got whispered advice from his grandson!)  Nice touch with the thank you – it builds social capital!  One thing Newt remembers is the importance of humor.  We haven’t seen that much humor from Republicans this cycle.  It was always one of Reagan’s strengths.

Interesting demeanor here – this is serious Newt.  Not triumphant Newt.  Great allusion to the Wall St./Washington axis.  and then to tie that to the “elite” media.  Very deft touch.  Crony corporate capitalism…

Ah “Bedtime for Bonzo” – a classic Reagan movie.

A very nice shout out to Santorum (notice the shouts in the back “He beat Mitt”!), and then Paul and even Mitt (weakly)  he’s clearly trying to solidify the ranks – at least some of them – of his opponents supporters behind him.  Translation: you know your guy can’t win – so why not back me, at least in Florida!

Newt throws in the debate/teleprompter joke – an oldie, but goodie.  Now he’s on a riff designed to appeal to Florida conservatives – judges/religion; jobs (food stamp President!)/small government/federalism.

Keystone is a sure winner for any Republican candidate.

If you are looking at the CNN graph, Newt’s jabs are scoring higher with men than with women, although both groups approve on the whole. But he needs to be sensitive to this gender disparity.

Again, when Newt attacks Obama, it is both more detailed and entertaining than when Mitt does it.

One thing that will determine whether Newt implodes in some spectacular misstatement, as the Establishment expects, or maintains discipline to end, is the type of staff structure he depends on, and how much he listens to them. I really don’t have much sense of this, but it’s something I’m looking into.

With 95% of the vote in, I’m 1% off in my prediction.  Go Newt voters!  We need 1% more to hit the perfecta…. .

OK, everyone. Great participation again. Sit back, pour a scotch and relax. You’ve earned it.  I’m signing off, but I’ll be on tomorrow with an early post-mortem on the media spin of the results.   Look for them to talk about Newt’s stunning upset, and how the electoral landscape has been upended…..

Go Patriots!

Addendum (10:17)  I didn’t mention this before, but turnout in South Carolina is way up over 2008 – at this point there’s more than 500,000 votes cast.  I’ll need to do the math, but this may put Gingrich up in overall popular vote so far as well. Not that it matters much this early.  I’ll try to get the actual totals in delegates and votes tomorrow.

One other point: in Gingrich’s victory speech, the reference that got the highest rating was his claim that his isn’t a Republican campaign – it’s an American campaign.




  1. They are wrong. If you look at the crosstabs, religion overlaps with ideology in South Carolina. This is a conservative/Tea Party victory.

  2. Chris – polls in florida show Romney with a substantial lead – 15-20%. But that margin will narrow after tonight. How much, however, depends on several factors, including whether Santorum drops out between now and then. I don’t think he will, but he should.

  3. Ari stated that up to 30% of he Florida votes are already in. If this is true what are the implications?

  4. Romney “elections have consequences”, bizarre remark in a concession speech, though at this point I haven’t heard any concession.

  5. Looking at this map, I can’t see this as anything other than a “native son” win. Newt’s win is VERY broad, geographically.

  6. Steve – Yes, it’s across the board. Mitt held on in some coastal areas, but right now Newt is pushing 40%.

  7. The liberty and hard currency candidate is on. He is definitely in for the long haul, longer than his political life, I think Prof D is right about this.

  8. R- and this is crucial because Paul draws heavily from voters who might otherwise be inclined to support Romney. If he stays in, wracks up delegates, he could be a spoiler that helps the non-Mitt candidate.

  9. With half the vote in our host was right on with his prediction: 41/26. Nate Silver watch your back!

  10. Boy, that High School eduction – that’s what you need. Oh, and MARRIAGE – thats what we need. You graduate HS and get married you’ve got it made!!

  11. Chris – well, you have to work too. And don’t have kids before getting married. Frankly, that seems to be pretty good advice, at least to start with.

  12. I think there’s definitely a correlation/causation problem with Santorum’s diagnosis, but I agree that it’s good advice for everyone.

  13. Santorum’s challenge is not just FL, but look at the other Feb primaries: AZ, NV, CO, MI, MN, ME. Maybe he gets traction in MI.

  14. R – I think Romney is going to run strong in Michigan, but Rick could conceivably draw some blue collar workers there. But it doesn’t look good for him.

  15. Hmmm, Newt and Rick are buddy-buddy. Very very interesting. What are the possibilities that we get a Newt Rick tag-team on Mit sooner rather than later?

  16. Chris – I was just thinking about where Newt would slot these other candidates in his shadow government. Rick would go to Health and Human Services, and Mitt to Treasury. Perry for VP? (Or Palin?)

  17. R – he’s hoping to siphon some Paul votes in Florida, since Paul won’t run there and he’s afraid they will drift to Romney.

  18. “Again, when Newt attacks Obama, it is both more detailed and entertaining than when Mitt does it.’

    Precisely, that is why I think his campaign has legs.

  19. So, is Gingrich the guy the republicans want? He sure takes the gloves off and gets down on Joe Plumber’s level. Professor Dickinson, could you speak on what would happen to both candidates if they won/lost Florida? It really seems like Florida is becoming increasing important – it will be the first time that a candidate has won 2 states.

  20. R – I agree. It does have legs. Whether that will be enough to overcome Mitt’s very real advantages in money, organization, and endorsements remains to be seen. But clearly Newt has already outstripped the C.W. predictions that he was going nowhere. He’s in this for the long haul.

  21. Chris – This is a great question, one that deserves a longer post. I can’t answer it fully tonight. But I think that in many ways Gingrich has more upside than Romney in that he is not restricted to the country club/Wall St. Republican box that Romney is stuck in. One thing to consider here is whether Gingrich is benefiting from a new type of campaigning, one that relies on free media to overcome the traditional advantages that Romney clearly possesses. The other thing to remember is that Mitt is going to take the Mittens off and start taking Newt on directly. and Newt has lots of vulnerabilities – his ethics background, his voting record, his Fannie Mae connections. Let’s not count Mitt out yet.

  22. And congratulations on your prediction – my readers should know that Dale was one of the few to suggest that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Newt had some strengths that would help him in the Republican nomination fight.

    Fortunately, he knows a lot more about politics than football. The Ravens will lose.

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