Newt Gingrich’s win in South Carolina is certainly one of the biggest comebacks seen in recent U.S. election history. And is especially impressive when you consider that he was outspent significantly by Mitt Romney. Exit polls provide some of the reasons for the victory. The former House Speaker performed well in the two debates preceding the vote, and 88 percent of those surveyed said the debates played an important factor in how they cast their vote. Men favored Gingrich — and the woman vote seemed to be depressed.
What will, though, worry the Romney camp the most is that the exit polls also suggest that Gingrich was seen as a better candidate when it comes to the economy. That is a switch: up until now Romney has been the candidate seen as the better bet for the economy. And, of course, that has been the central message of his campaign: coming from the private sector, he is the man who can turn the U.S. economy around. Also significant is that the exit polling found that Gingrich was seen as the best equipped candidate to go head to head with Obama in the general election.
So, Florida next. South Carolina has never been favorable territory for Romney. But he now faces a serious rival who will enter the next primary on a bounce.