Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina. Big.
In the 2000 primary election in New Hampshire, John McCain had a similar win over George W. Bush. Bush media maven Stuart Stevens came into the filing center and said, “This was an old-fashioned ass-kicking.”
One state later, which happened to be South Carolina, Bush soundly defeated McCain and ultimately ended the process on Super Tuesday.
But this isn’t 2000. It’s 2012. The dynamics are different and the personalities of the candidates are different.
Newt Gingrich had a great political week: a once-in-a-lifetime win in South Carolina and a race to an overwhelming victory over Mitt Romney here.
Romney had a dreadful week. A Costa Concordia week. For reasons that have yet to be explained, he was not able to deal with if or when he would release his tax returns, explain his millions of dollars parked in the Cayman Islands, or show a level of comfort in how Bain Capital made its money.
If Romney can handily beat Gingrich in Florida, this will be effectively over.
Politics is about winning, and Newt Gingrich won here in South Carolina.
What Gingrich has to do is to figure out how he can win in Florida (population 19 million) having won in South Carolina (population 4.6 million.)
Florida is bifurcated north to south. Although it sounds like a Joseph Heller riff from Catch-22, the South of Florida is like the North, the North of Florida is like the South.
The Romney team should look at the South Carolina result like Sun Tzu would. Romney will have Gingrich one-on-one. If Romney can handily beat Gingrich in Florida, this will be effectively over. If not, we will be entertained by months of a Republican primary campaign that may last until June.
Which happens to be as long as the Democrat primary fight lasted between Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton four years ago.