(COLUMBIA, S.C.) — One of Newt Gingrich’s bigger strengths, his deliberate debate performances, appears to have contributed largely to his victory in South Carolina.
Exit polls from the state show that the two-thirds of voters who said the debates were important picked Gingrich over front-running Mitt Romney 49 percent to 23 percent.
A perfect example of Gingrich’s electrifying debate style was his response to the first question in Thursday night’s forum, in which he turned a question about an explosive interview given by his ex-wife into a tirade about the mainstream media, which he accused of protecting President Obama. The crowd responded with whoops and cheers, rising for a standing ovation.
Gingrich has said that the Republican Party’s nominee for president must be able to go toe-to-toe with Obama on the debate stage, and he has gone a step further by pledging to challenge the president to lengthy Lincoln-Douglas-style debates.
“Forty-five percent of South Carolina voters were focused chiefly on the candidate who’s best able to defeat Barack Obama in November – and even these voters favored Gingrich over Romney, by a 9-point margin,” ABC News’s Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates said.
Langer also said Romney, once again, failed to win over conservative voters: “Other groups in which Romney has struggled, particularly in Iowa, went heavily to Gingrich. He won very conservative voters – more than a third of the South Carolina Republican electorate – with 45 percent of their votes. Rick Santorum and Romney trailed in this key group, with 23 and 20 percent, respectively. And Gingrich won four in 10 evangelicals, who accounted for six in 10 GOP primary voters in the state, again beating Romney and Santorum alike by 2-1 margins.”
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