S.C. Backers Grapple With Gingrich's 'Inevitable' Departure
Newt Gingrich is reportedly dropping out of the race, three months after winning in the coveted S.C. Republican primary.
Newt Gingrich's longshot presidential campaign was reinvigorated by an impressive rout of Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican field in January's South Carolina primary.
It was the Palmetto State's contest, Gingrich had said for months prior, that would propel him to the GOP nomination.
But as reports of the former Speaker of the House suspending his campaign surfaced Wednesday, Gingrich's run ended with a whimper — having only won one other state (his adopted Georgia) in the three months since.
We'll never know.
"Since we know the conservative votes were split between Gingrich and Santorum, had one of them pulled out of the race earlier, we would not be faced with the likelihood of a Romney nomination," said Deb Myers, a Lexington County GOP activist and Gingrich supporter.
"It is disappointing to me that the two of them did not acknowledge this and come to an agreement as to which would carry the conservative mantle."
But Karen Martin, who heads the Spartanburg County Tea Party and ultimately came to support Gingrich in South Carolina, was skeptical as to the possibility that a Santorum/Gingrich collaboration could have ever materialized.
Or that it would even mattered.
"At this point, it's a non-story. It's (Mitt Romney's nomination) been inevitable for a while," Martin said.
"The reality is that people who put themselves in the running for president don't think that way. They're not interested in dropping out to help someone else run for president. That's not how those guys are build. And even had it happened, I'd say no, it wouldn't have made a difference, purely because of the money and negative ads Romney bought."
Brent Nelsen, a political science professor at Furman University in Greenville, agreed.
"I don't think there was a conservative coalition that could have stopped Mitt," Nelsen said. "Mitt won by being better organized."
One South Carolinian who hopped on the Romney train months ago and whose decision looks to have been the most predictive one nationally, though not in her own state, is Gov. Nikki Haley.
Not long after receiving Haley's endorsement, Romney was overwhelmed by Gingrich in the January primary.
"The governor has always respected and appreciated the independence of South Carolina voters," said Rob Godfrey, Haley's spokesman. "She also believes Governor Romney — a businessman who has nothing to do with the chaos in Washington — will be the partner she needs in the White House and is thrilled he is our nominee."
Still, in a race where only one mainstream Southern conservative had any real shot at garnering the nomination, it's tough for some South Carolinians let go of Gingrich — a Georgia native who publicly pinned his hopes on the Palmetto State.
"I'm heartbroken; I'm just truly heartbroken. I haven't changed my opinion that he is the best choice for a candidate," Newt campaign volunteer Dana Eiser said.
"I can only hope he doesn't drop out of the limelight completely because he can make a huge difference in Washington."
Eiser volunteered as office manager for the campaign's Lowcountry office.
"The media and what-not have helped launch Mitt Romney into the limelight and that's what's going to happen," Eiser said. "(But) no matter who the nominee is I'll get behind him and support him because I think it's that important."
Eiser said she couldn't explain why Newt fared so well in the Palmetto State but couldn't catch a break in other states.
But she did have a guess.
"I think it's because we are such a conservative state," Eiser said. "We are a very faith-based conservative community as a whole in South Carolina and that's what launched him to the leader board here."