The unlikely recipient of the anyone-but-Romney tsunami was Newt Gingrich.
By any measure, Gingrich is one of the most flawed candidates ever. But to South Carolina voters, he’s the only true conservative they think can beat Obama. This despite—or possibly because of—the accusation just three days before the primary that Gingrich asked his second wife for an open marriage, so he could continue his six-year affair with his mistress (now wife No. 3).
Gingrich now emerges as the only credible (insert guffaw here) alternative to Romney. Goodbye, Rick Santorum. The vote comes at a time when Romney’s national numbers are collapsing and his inevitability train jumped the tracks. Just as interesting is that Republican voters have completely unmoored themselves from reality by concluding that Newt is also the stronger candidate in the general election. The general unease that the party faithful have always felt about Romney has turned into full-fledged disgust. Romney may be able to salvage the nomination yet, but to do so he’s going to have to pander long and hard to the evangelical base. And just one guess who is going to be on the receiving end of that rhetoric. In the meantime, we’re in for weeks of a campaign (next stop Florida) that will be simultaneously appalling and entertaining.