POLITICS
01/21/2012 08:30 am ET Updated Jan 21, 2012

Newt Gingrich South Carolina Primary 2012 Outlook

Newt Gingrich is looking to score a win over rival contender Mitt Romney in Saturday's primary election in South Carolina.

The former House Speaker is surging, according to the latest polls, and hasn't held back in injecting fiery rhetoric into the race.

HuffPost's Ryan Grim and Elise Foley report:

Newt Gingrich is feeling it. Having slugged his way to the lead for the second time, the former House speaker spies victory in South Carolina, a win he has said repeatedly will "make history" and, ultimately, hand him the Republican nomination for president.

The former boast seemed as fanciful as Gingrich's Mars program a week ago. Today, it's conventional wisdom.

In Orangeburg on Friday, speaking to a two-room overflow crowd in a shopping mall, Gingrich held up and knocked down the gallery of elitist thugs he holds responsible for the wayward course of America: "anti-religious judges," "academic journalists," bureaucrats, Hollywood and, of course, "Obama" -- Gingrich never calls him "President Obama."

And Juan Williams. Gingrich paused to take time to toy with Williams, the FOX commentator who last Monday -- in the pivotal moment of the campaign here -- had questioned whether Gingrich was seeking to “belittle people” by talking about the "food stamp president" and by suggesting that urban youths do janitorial work in schools.

Gingrich's sneering, "Well ... Juan," reply in that debate brought the crowd to its feet and launched him toward the lead. A much more sophisticated southern strategy than the one employed by his party in the 1970s, it nevertheless imparted a simple message, that Gingrich is the candidate who can articulately and passionately channel your rage.

Super PAC Spending Spree

HuffPost's Paul Blumenthal reports:

Newt Gingrich, a man of more acts than your average reality television star, has been slain and resurrected twice in the drama that is the Republican presidential campaign. His latest resurrection comes at the same hand that seemingly defeated him in Iowa. There, but for the grace of a super PAC, would have gone Gingrich.

His stirring debate performances channeling the Southern id of the Republican Party have given a second boost to the former House speaker's candidacy in the waning days before the South Carolina vote. But solidifying his debate gains are the millions of dollars spent by a super PAC that has reversed the spending disparity that hit Gingrich so hard in Iowa.

Unlike in Iowa, where Gingrich's record was shredded in a barrage of negative ads from a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, Gingrich's campaign in South Carolina has been buoyed by a multimillion-dollar response from a pro-Newt super PAC called Winning Our Future. That spending is helping push his last-minute poll surge, as he moves into a virtual tie with Romney.

The Polls

HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal reports:

The polling trends of the last week, both nationally and in South Carolina, indicate that the race for the Republican presidential nomination has taken another dramatic shift. At face value, these trends suggest that Newt Gingrich has moved into the lead in South Carolina and now stands a good chance of winning the state's primary on Saturday.

But now may be a good time to consider the limitations of the polls themselves. Voters in South Carolina are making up their minds in the aftermath of events that a report published on the front page of the state's largest newspaper described as analogous to "a plugged-in toaster ... dropped into what had been the relatively placid waters of the South Carolina presidential primary."

Unforeseen late events can shape voter preferences in unexpected ways. Telephone polls interrupt voters in the middle of other activities and ask them to make a decision as if "the election were held today." But many real voters are still mulling their choices, particularly in the rush of recent events, so caution is in order in interpreting the latest poll results.

Nationally, the Gallup Daily tracking poll released on Friday shows another narrowing of the margin between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. What had been a 23-point Romney lead over Gingrich on Sunday has dropped to just 10 percentage points (30 to 20 percent), prompting Gallup's Frank Newport to note that "clearly things are collapsing" for Romney nationwide.

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Check out the slideshow below for more on the Gingrich campaign.

PHOTO GALLERIES
Newt Gingrich 2012

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