CHARLESTON, S.C. — With just hours to go before the polls open in South Carolina, it looks like Newt Gingrich has the ‘First In South’ primary in the bag.The most recent South Carolina polls put Gingrich in the lead here with about 30% of the vote, pulling ahead of frontrunner Mitt Romney by as much as six points. Ron Paul follows in third place, with Rick Santorum rounding out the field in fourth.
It’s a surprising feat for a rollercoaster campaign that has been teetering on the verge of collapse almost since it began. Gingrich managed to come back from the political grave in December, but after stumbling out of New Hampshire with a fifth-place finish, it looked like he would be the next to go.
But somehow, the former House Speaker launched a resilient offence that has totally knocked Mitt Romney off his post. If he can pull off the 5-12 win that some are predicting, he will have effectively quashed the narrative of inevitability that Romney and most of the news media have been projecting for the past year.
Winning obviously agrees with Gingrich. A new Newt has emerged in the last 48 hours — he practically skipped on stage at a campaign barbecue with South Carolina sportsmen, and gushed for several minutes about his love for wild animals (in case you didn’t know, Gingrich loves zoos.)
After his smackdown of John King tonight, Gingrich has been projecting an air of confidence and gravitas that he has rarely shown this election cycle. Addressing a huge crowd of supporters on the deck of an aircraft carrier, he almost started to look presidential.