COLUMBIA– Newt Gingrich’s election party at the Hilton hotel radiated with literal heat and positive energy. Fans, volunteers and reporters stood shoulder to shoulder, singing along to Journey and Springsteen and periodically breaking out into chants of “Newt! Newt! Newt!” Gingrich’s long time supporters couldn’t contain their excitement, calling his sweeping victory absolutely “surreal.”
Here are a few snapshots:
“South Carolina saved America,” announced a very emotional Barbara Marks. Newt’s victory bordered on a religious experience for the Laughlin, Nevada resident. She thanked the Palmetto state voters and Rick Perry–calling him a true “gentleman” for dropping out in time.
“With God’s help, we’re going all the way,” she said, teary-eyed. “And we will make it.”
Ed Waller, center, has been volunteering with Newt’s South Carolinia campaign since early December. He’s spent over 60 hours putting up road signs all over Columbia and Lexington. For him, this night is a different kind of sign–of a flood of donations and momentum to carry Newt to a Florida victory.
“He’s gonna do wonderful things,” he assured me.
Decked out in Newt merchandise, Abigail (13) and Walker (7) Moore were all smiles last night. Abigail told me they’ve been fans for as long as he’s been running. Newt is always confident on stage, she noted. He gives specifics instead of generalized, crowd-pleasing statements. She’s happy that this victory will motivate him to keep going.
With “Don’t Stop Believing” blaring, Sarah and Jack Martin sung and swayed with the crowd, awaiting Newt’s appearance. They love Gingrich’s experience.
He’s been around since I was in grade school, Sarah quipped. Suddenly, Jack took on a mock-serious expression.
“My biggest grievance against Newt,” he paused and broke into a smile, “is that he didn’t run in 2008. Then we wouldn’t have this situation.”
Note: Since the publication of this post, it has come to our attention that the Sarah and Jack Martin featured in this post are not who they claimed to be. They were posing as Gingrich supporters to intentionally deceived me, and many other outlets, as discussed on their blog.
(From left) Jennifer Banks, Cole Mitchell, Thornton Brewer, Liza Dye, Alexis Gottlieb and Tyler Bishop are visiting students from Mercy University, in Georgia. Their class on media and politics has whisked them all over South Carolina and they’ve gotten to know all the candidates in the process. This group fell for Newt’s charm after seeing him at Mutt’s BBQ in Easley, so they were absolutely ectatic to be at his election party. What won them over, I asked.
“His fire,” Gottlieb exclaimed. “He really does not care what you think about him.”
The rest of our class went to the Romney rally, they explained, laughing.
Danny and Thuy-Hang Fulmer sensed a Gingrich victory weeks in advance. They’re confident the odds will continue shifting in his favor.
“He’s definitely still gonna get a fight,” Danny admitted, but “all of his baggage is already out” and it hasn’t slowed him down. Too bad, Governor Romney can’t say the same.