Everyone knew Newt Gingrich would win his original home state of Georgia, which he represented in Congress for two decades. The question was by how much, and who would come in second place.
Georgia has a treasure trove of 76 delegates, but in order to take them all, Gingrich needed to win every congressional district with a majority of the vote, as well as keeping the other candidates below 20 percent of the statewide vote. That was always going to be a tall order.
Exit poll data looked encouraging. CBS News reported “at least seven out of 10 voters in all seven primary states today said gas prices were an ‘important’ factor in their decision.” In Georgia, it was 81 percent. Gingrich has been campaigning heavily on a detailed program for restoring $2.50 gas.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution saw “an angry Tea Party crowd” in the exit polls, noting 70 percent support for the Tea Party, and 91 percent who said they were “angry” or “dissatisfied.” Fully 69 percent of these voters said they had made up their minds more than a few days ago, a good omen for longtime favorite Gingrich.
The Georgia primary was swiftly called in Gingrich’s favor, shortly after the polls closed at 7 P.M. Eastern time, but it will take a little longer to count all the votes and apportion the delegates. The night is not over for Newt Gingrich just yet.
Update: Addressing supporters at his Georgia campaign headquarters, Newt Gingrich said, “I hope the analysts in Washington and New York who spent June and July explaining our campaign was dead will watch this tonight, and learn a little bit from this crowd, and this place.”
Gingrich said his opponents, who he described as “the elites” and “Wall Street money,” panicked when he became a front-runner. “Wall Street money can be beaten by Main Street work,” he explained, “so of course at that point Wall Street decided that only a $5 million negative campaign in Iowa” could stop him.
As for the other GOP front-runners who have come and gone – including “my friend Herman Cain” and “my friend Rick Perry” – Gingrich declared, “There are lots of bunny rabbits that run through, but I’m the tortoise.” Gingrich is due to receive Secret Service protection tomorrow. Hopefully the Service will make his code name “Tortoise.”
“I believe I am the one candidate who has the ability to defeat Barack Obama decisively,” he said, saying he was the only one who “has the guts to take on the President every single time he’s wrong.” He spoke of his plan for developing American energy resources at length, saying that a return to $2.50 gas is “a practical, cautious, doable number.”
Gingrich said he relished the prospect of debating Barack Obama, repeating his gracious offer to allow the incumbent to bring his beloved teleprompter to the seven 3-hour Lincoln-Douglas debates Gingrich wants to hold. Referring to Obama’s recent speeches, Gingrich said “they’re so deliciously incoherent, they’re the perfect case study of liberalism run amok.”
Building from his big win in Georgia, Gingrich announced “we’re going on to Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas… and that’s just this week.”
Update: With about 97 percent of the vote counted this morning, Gingrich clearly is not going to “run the table” in Georgia. Mitt Romney has already been awarded 13 delegates, while Rick Santorum did well enough to take 2. Gingrich will receive the vast majority of the delegates from his home state, but not all of them.
Here’s video of the Gingrich speech from Georgia on Tuesday night: