WARRENVILLE, SC — Newt Gingrich is on the move upward in this state. The polls show it, his crowds suggest it, and his rhetoric feeds off it.
Newtmentum is real, I can attest.
At the Fox News presidential debate Monday night in Myrtle Beach, Gingrich received a standing ovation when he rebuked moderator Juan Williams over the idea of how to teach a work ethic, declared he was not racially insensitive, and invoked the Declaration of Independence. Here’s the moment:
The following night former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin essentially endorsed Gingrich on Fox, sayingthat if she lived in South Carolina she’d vote for Gingrich, to make sure the Republican nomination battle continued.
“More debates, more vetting of candidates because we know the mistake made in our country four years ago was having a candidate that was not vetted, to the degree that he should have been,” Palin said. “I want to see that taking place this time because America is on this precipice — it’s that important. We need this process to continue.”
Gingrich built on these two moments today. First, his campaign announced it will begin running an advertisement this evening that shows the standing ovation, and at an overflow town hall here at local hangout Bobby’s Bar-B-Q, located on Jefferson Davis Highway, a woman told him “Thank you for putting Juan Williams in his place.” The crowd erupted, and Gingrich took the opportunity to declare that GOP strategist Frank Luntz had told him the Standing O was the first in a Republican debate since Ronald Reagan received one in New Hampshire.
Second, Gingrich went all-in by linking himself to Palin. In a satellite interview taped in an upstairs room after the town hall here, Gingrich told CNN that Palin is “one of the people I’d call on for advice. I would ask her to consider taking a major role in the next administration if I’m president.”
In the town hall he also highlighted a new Rasmussen Reports national poll taken Tuesday night — after the debate — that showed Gingrigh had made up 11 points on front-runner Mitt Romney. He then took it up a notch by declaring that he thought the Romney camp’s internal polls showed Gingrich ahead in South Carolina, and that as a result “I fully expect the Romney campaign to be unendingly dirty and dishonest for the next four days.”
A South Carolina poll released just over an hour ago by Time and CNN showed that Gingrich still trailed Romney by 10 points in the state — but that was half what it had been two weeks ago. And Nate Silver of New York Times blog fivethirtyeight said he had received a private poll that “showed BIG movement toward Gingrich on Tuesday BUT very small sample size.”
Among those at Bobby’s, the sample size was more than enough.
The emotional apex of the town hall came when Danny Himsey, 53 and a nuclear security worker in Savannah, rose to speak. Himsey said his father, uncle, two brothers and he had served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and then addressed Gingrich: “Fear not New Hampshire and Iowa” — where Gingrich had finished back in the pack of candidates — “because they are not the heartbeat of America. This is the heartbeat of America.”
It got an ovation.