Once again I am up late, writing about the results of another primary election.
Elections tend to be about narratives, and the narrative has shifted unexpectedly several times.
Last week, when Mitt Romney came in first in New Hampshire, he was also leading in the polls in South Carolina, which due to its being a southern state, was seen to be a natural stronghold for Newt Gingrich, as well as Rick Perry. If Romney could win in South Carolina, the theory went, he would have won three states in a row, and showed that he could win states of varying demographics. The nomination was a smooth ride from there.
But there is a reason why we have actual elections, instead of just letting pundits decide who will win. In between New Hampshire and today, four things happened. The first two were that Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry dropped out of the race. Huntsman's exit wasn't too significant, but Perry's left Gingrich the only Southern candidate competing in South Carolina. Secondly, it was revealed after a recount that Santorum had won Iowa, meaning that Romney had not actually won two states straight. And Gingrich did well in a debate and started running a more aggressive advertising campaign against Romney. The polls started shifting in Gingrich's direction.
When the returns started coming in, Gingrich's surge was reflected in the actual votes. Throughout the night he led, and ended up winning 40 percent of the vote to Romney's 28 percent. It was also supposed that Romney would do better in South Carolina's urban centers, and while this was somewhat true (the three counties that Romney did win were urban counties), it was a fairly small effect. Gingrich seemed to do well uniformly across the state.
The upshot of all of this is that what seemed to be a primary where Mitt Romney was the "inevitable nominee" has now turned back into a feverish contest, with three candidates each having won a state each.
As I have said on the previous two posts, a clear picture of what is happening in the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary has not yet emerged.