By MAXWELL REINHARDT
Over this past weekend, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s smooth march to the Republican presidential nomination was interrupted by two upsets. The Iowa Republican Party declared former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum the official winner of its January caucuses, a prize that just two weeks ago had been awarded to Romney, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won a stunning double-digit victory in the South Carolina primary.
Less than two weeks ago, Romney claimed a historic victory after he had just won both the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses, a feat which no non-incumbent Republican has ever accomplished.
On Jan. 3, Romney declared victory in Iowa by only eight votes. However, on the morning of Jan. 19, the Iowa GOP announced the final tally, with 29,839 votes for Santorum and 29,805 votes for Romney. Of the 1,774 precincts that voted in the Iowa caucuses, 1,766 were officially certified. The votes from the eight uncertified precincts, which could have tipped the vote either way, will never be certified. Romney called Santorum on Thursday to congratulate him, but called the race a “virtual tie,” according to Fox News.
Last Saturday, Gingrich delivered an electoral thrashing to Romney in South Carolina, beating him by over 12 percentage points. The loss of South Carolina could prove to be a demoralizing blow to the Romney campaign. Since 1980, the winner of the South Carolina Republican primary has gone on to win the Party’s nomination.
Gingrich proved to be very popular with the state’s socially conservative population. Forty one percent of South Carolinian voters who classify themselves as “very conservative,” usually evangelicals and Tea Party supporters, voted for Gingrich. Two-thirds of the voters surveyed declared themselves to be evangelical or born-again Christian. Social conservatives were apparently undeterred by this week’s revelation from Gingrich’s former wife, Marianne Gingrich, that he wanted an “open marriage.”
Among Republicans who classify themselves as “moderate to liberal,” Romney won with 35 percent of the vote. Romney voters were more likely to be affluent and opposed to the Tea Party movement according to The New York Times.
Until earlier last week, Romney was the frontrunner in South Carolina, until his lead collapsed after a few spectacular debate performances by Gingrich.
Romney is projected to win next week’s Florida primary with 46.1 percent of the vote. Gingrich lags behind with 24.9 percent.
By winning in South Carolina, Gingrich put a chink in Romney’s electoral armor, but if he hopes to become the nominee he must convince both Republicans and independents that he is capable of leading his party to victory in November.