Posted on | January 20, 2012 | 11 Comments
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley spins for Mitt Romney
after the CNN debate, Jan. 19, 2012
Last night was one of those deadline nightmares that occasionally occurs when I’m exhausted, trying to make sense of a complex situation with a brain numbed by fatigue. I only got about four hours sleep after my 479-mile round-trip journey upstate Wednesday, and news was breaking fast Thursday, when I spent the afternoon down at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, which is strung out at multiple sites over a four-block space in downtown Charleston.
By the time I left the North Charleston Convention Center last night about 11, I’d written the first 200 words of my column, then returned to the Marriott on Meeting Street, media headquarters for the SRLC, intending to finish up quickly. But Bryan Preston of PJ Media was here and we got to talking and by the time I filed the column it was 2 a.m. By the time I got back to the hotel where I’m staying with Ali Akbar of NotMittRomney.com, it was almost 3.
So I slept until nearly 10 a.m. today and then chewed up a bunch of time trying to upload video, which was thwarted by an uncooperative hotel WiFi system and by the time I finally gave up on that, it was time for us to come back downtown for Ali to moderate a panel discussion about vote fraud. Then we went to eat at a barbecue place on King Street — my 13-year-old son pronounced it the best food he’d ever eaten in his life — and I got back to the Marriott about 4 p.m.
All of this, you see, to explain the paucity of blogging this Friday, which is the one day of the week when I don’t have a deadline for the Spectator.
Last night after the debate, I was nearly crushed in a media scrum surrounding Rick Santorum, the only one of the candidates who appeared in the “spin room” at the convention center:
Reporters were wedged into such a tight circle around the candidate — TV camera crews and photographers were packing in three-deep — that it probably would have been illegal in South Carolina before the Supreme Court ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. But I got the quote I needed for the lead of my American Spectator column:
The race for the Republican presidential nomination has finally come down the Final Four, and the swift reduction of the field helped make Thursday night’s debate here arguably the most entertaining of the 17 televised debates during this long campaign.
Yet the debate was in some sense anti-climactic, coming as it did on the heels of so much drama elsewhere on the South Carolina campaign trail. “The last 24 hours, I think, will go down in primary history as probably one of the most tumultuous 24 hours that we’ve seen,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said after the debate at the North Charleston Convention Center, televised on CNN.
Thursday’s biggest developments in the campaign preceded the debate by several hours. First, ABC News began releasing excerpts of its interview with Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife, who claimed that the former House Speaker had asked her to have an “open marriage.” Next, officials in Iowa reported that the final count from the Jan. 3 caucus showed that Santorum had beaten former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney there. Then, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called a press conference to announce that he was suspending his campaign and endorsing Gingrich.
Perry was the second candidate to drop out of the race this week, following Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s withdrawal Monday. This winnowing of the Republican field in South Carolina, strangely delayed after the usual proving grounds of Iowa and New Hampshire, produced a quartet of candidates — Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul — who mixed it up in a feisty battle that began with a volatile exchange between Gingrich and CNN moderator John King. . . .
UPDATE: And now the headlines via Memeorandum:
Clemson Palmetto Poll finds Gingrich leading,
20% of S.C. voters still uncommitted
– Clemson University
Romney’s ‘Prevent Defense’
Yielding Big Gains to Opponents
– New York Times
It looks like Newt will win here and — even though I’m for Santorum — that’s good news. Somebody had to beat Romney here to stop his momentum. Santorum beat Romney in Iowa and if Gingrich beats Romney in South Carolina, then all three candidates will be 1-for-3, and the campaign continues.