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Are Republicans so determined to put a right-winger at the top of their Presidential ticket that they will nominate anyone — including a serial adulterer with serious ethics problems — rather than Mitt Romney?
That seems to be the sentiment as South Carolina GOP voters head to the polls Saturday and appear ready to give Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich — who has risen from the ashes more often than Count Dracula — a come-from-behind victory over Romney.
“What’s it going to take? A stake through through the heart? We can’t bury this guy,” a senior Romney aide grumbled to Capitol Hill Blue late Friday as polls show the former GOP frontrunner tailing a surging Gingrich in final pre-primary polls.
In many ways, Romney sank himself in South Carolina with stumbles on his still-unreleased tax returns and unanswered questions about Cayman Islands accounts and undisclosed wealth.
But with the GOP field down to four, Romney faces a more unified opposition from right-wingers who don’t like him and disaffected Republican voters who don’t care for anyone in the current crop of candidates.
“We don’t have a choice this time around,” says South Carolina Republican Connie Vitter. “We really don’t.”
In a normal year, revelations from an angry ex-wife, who told ABC News this week that her husband wanted an “open marriage” so he could screw around openly with other women, would sink an ordinary candidate, but Gingrich is not ordinary and this is not a normal year.
Gingrich turned what could have been a campaign-ending issue into an applause line in Thursday’s debate by turning the issue into a lambasting of the media — a sure-fire winner in conservative circles and one that diverted attention away from the fact that Gingrich is a serial adulterer with a history of dumping wive for current paramours and a political opportunist who has skirted ethical rules to get rich off his time in office.
With former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum paying second-fiddle to Gingrich, the real loser in this week of political turmoil has been Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who has dropped in most polls and is no longer receiving any attention because of the focus on Romney and Gingrich.
“Paul has return to his usual place of irrelevancy,” says GOP strategist Arnold Block. “He will finish third or fourth in South Carolina, which is OK in a six-man race but with only four candidates left it drops him back into the second tier.”