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Opinion

Gingrich pushes past Romney in South Carolina to cloud GOP race

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February 3, 2012

When I picked up my Sunday paper this past weekend, my mouth dropped open in shock: “Gingrich beats Romney” in the South Carolina primary. What?

For a couple weeks now I have been convinced that Newt Gingrich’s run for the GOP nomination was on its last legs. Then he goes and wins a crucial primary state that will most likely dictate the rest of the Republican nomination race. “The Huffington Post” featured a quote from Gingrich that implied, no, stated, that low-income children who received reducedprice or free meals at school should replace the “unionized janitors” in order to learn how to work hard. That was the tipping point for me when I decided that Gingrich was going to be outvoted by the likes of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in the upcoming South Carolina primary.

Which is why his win, and a landslide win at that, did more than surprise me.

I was speechless.

According to the Associated Press, Gingrich snagged the win for the South Carolina primary with 40.4 percent of the votes, with Romney coming in second place with 27.8 percent.

This is the first presidential election I have followed at all, since I turned 18 the year after President Obama’s historic win as the first African American president. Therefore, I may be wrong, but a difference of almost 13 percent between first and second place seems like a huge difference that was totally unprecedented.

I say unprecedented because during the week before the vote was to take place, all of the remaining Republican nominees were traveling around the state, staging rallies and speeches in order to gain more supporters. Gingrich held one of these important rallies in a hotel conference room that was able to hold 800 people. He ended up cancelling the event because so few people showed up.

Gingrich has quite a history on Capitol Hill.

After serving in the House of Representatives from 1978 to 1995, Gingrich became Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999.

Perhaps his greatest accomplishment as Speaker was passing the first balanced budget since 1969. However, Gingrich was often cited as a magnet for controversy, and amid dismissed ethics violations and dismal Republican results in the 1998 elections, he resigned in 1999.

Despite Gingrich’s challenges, he has managed to stay active in Washington, D.C., which leads us to this year’s Republican nomination race.

Gingrich seems to be the odd duck in the pool of Republican nominees. He was raised Lutheran, a relatively moderate Christian denomination, but converted to Catholicism, which can’t hold a candle to the religious zeal of the other candidates. Romney is a well-known Mormon, Santorum and Rick Perry, who just pulled out of the race last week, are both evangelical Christians.

So Gingrich may indeed have an advantage over these other nominees because he is able to reach the maybe notso- religious voters of America. Whatever the case may be, there is no doubt that I will continue to follow the fascinating Republican nomination race, made even more fascinating by Newt Gingrich’s upset victory in South Carolina this last weekend.

Staying informed about candidates is important, especially to college students, as many of us will be voting in a presidential election for the first time. I know that I, for one, will be listening to all candidates’ platforms to be an informed voter.

Amanda White is a junior majoring in journalism. She appreciates good books, good style, and good conversation.