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Newt Blow-Out! But Can He Go the Distance?

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Suffering the chants of "Newt Can Win" and "USA USA" all the commentators who thought South Carolina would hand Mitt Romney the brass ring and a ticket to ride to the nomination - its time to eat crow!

Newt laid the gauntlet down tonight in his victory speech, defying the media to probe into his past - he is truly a master of manipulation and the pre-emptive strike!

In the last two GOP debates Newt Gingrich was on his game and Mitt Romney seemed to be totally off his stride.

This is the first time in GOP Primary history that a different candidate has won each of the first three contests - Rick Santorum won a squeaker in the Iowa Caucuses (previously awarded to Romney after a recount); Romney had a clean win in the New Hampshire Primary and now Gingrich has won South Carolina.

What this says is that the far right of the GOP is controlling the Republican agenda and they are not yet ready to settle on their nominee.

This also means they have taken Sarah Palin's advice to vote for Newt and keep the contest going.

Romney and his SuperPAC "Restore Our Future" flattened Newt's surge in Iowa but Newt bounced back with a vengeance and a SuperPAC of his very own "Winning Our Future" - on his side.

Perhaps what is most disturbing to the Romney camp is that Newt won by making the Democrat's best arguments against him.

Gingrich also showed that debates do matter.

He is the consummate showman. In the last two debates he used the media as a foil to gain sympathy and lots of free positive press.

He will have another opportunity to strut his stuff and toss more red meat at the next debate this Monday in Tampa.

In an effort to prove Mitt unelectable Gingrich has attacked all of Romney's strengths - his business experience and his electability.

Polls tonight show Gingrich was a success as he trounced Romney on the issue of electability by 49%.

The news here is debates matter and so does momentum, so Romney does not have much time to get back on track and change the narrative.

However, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are small potatoes when it comes to delegates.

There is a long way to go on that front only 37 delegates have been awarded and there are 1144 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Ron Paul knows this well and he is not wasting much time in Florida.
He is running a Barack Obama 2008 style delegate rich race strategy.

In other words the long hard slog is on.

The big leagues and the delegate rich states are next and Florida is night and day compared to South Carolina.

It is a big state with expensive media markets - Miami-Dade; Orlando; Tampa-St Pete and totally different demographics.

Florida's voters are 60% seniors - most of whom get some sort of government benefit and are less likely to be responsive to the far right message.

Latinos are a huge part of the demographic makeup of the "Sunshine State" and both candidate's anti-immigration message is not likely to be popular with these citizens.

Florida is the first closed primary contest so it means only registered Republicans can vote (no Independents or Democrats).

Early voting started today in Florida and 170,000 ballots have already handed in so Newt's surge and Mitt's stumble make not have a big effect- since well over half the voters in South Carolina made their decision in the last 3 days.

So far this victory by Newt does not seem to be sitting well with those who run the Republican party.

Although Newt knows how to dish out the red meat to the angry far right, he is not a natural for the independents and moderates who decide all general elections.

Right now polls show President Obama and Mitt Romney in a statistical dead heat while Obama bests Gingrich by 11 points.

Romney has a Southern and "average Joe" problem he needs to fix this fast.

Gingrich needs money and organization and he also needs this fast.

Rick Perry and his well heeled Texas contributors could fill this void for Gingrich. Otherwise Newt needs another cash infusion from his Vegas SuperPAC Sugar Daddies to remain in the game.

Newt has almost no main stream GOP endorsers and he faces a daunting well oiled and monied Romney machine which still has a commanding lead in Florida.

In recent polls, Gingrich's national negatives are almost 70% to 30%.

Newt is a well known character with a well known past and elicits very strong views.

This could explain why some Democrats including those in the White House are cheering this Gingrich victory.

This blog can also be read on Sky News