“In [Team Romney’s] view, Gingrich has barely run a campaign. As they see it, Team Gingrich doesn’t have the money, professionalism, brains, or organization of the Romney campaign. They see the former Speaker as somewhat unstable and vulnerable to continued attack on issues of ethics and morals. And most of all, they see Gingrich as a candidate who owes his very existence to the never-ending series of Republican debates — and not much more…

“In the next few days, there will be plenty of analysis attributing Gingrich’s victory to other factors: his commanding performances in debate, his next-door advantage in South Carolina, and Romney’s now-traditional difficulties in the state. But after all the talk of ground game and debate war, there’s a simpler reason Gingrich won: On the stump, in town hall after town hall, across South Carolina, Gingrich has been a markedly better campaigner than Romney

“Gingrich’s success here in South Carolina shows more than just a skepticism toward establishment Republicanism. It also shows a hunger for real substance in the campaign, for a candidate who will talk to voters and give them more than phrases like ‘I believe in America.’ Mitt Romney’s team of seasoned campaign professionals may not think Newt Gingrich has any business playing a deciding role in the race. But they better believe it, and they better take seriously what the Gingrich challenge represents — before it’s too late.”

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“Conservatives are very frustrated, and rightfully so. Their feeling is that they play by the rules – they work hard, pay their taxes, raise their kids right – but what do they get for it? Their values are mocked on television and the movies, the media castigates them as a bunch of extremists, they pay taxes while half of the country does not, and the Obama administration took to demagouging them virtually from day one of his tenure. I know of what I speak – a few months back I was driving down the road and saw a sign in front of a business lamenting, ‘Where is the America I grew up in?’ I nodded my head in approval.

“Enter Newt Gingrich, the person on the debate stage who finally speaks truth to power. ‘Not so fast, John King!’ ‘Hold it just a damned minute, Diane Sawyer!’ ‘How dare you talk to me like that, Brian Williams!’ These are the sorts of thoughts that millions of conservatives have every week. And now here is Newt Gingrich actually saying it right to them. Never mind the fact that he is expressing indignation at liberals while sometimes offering not-so-conservative policies, or using it as a form of misdirection to turn attention away from his own questionable deeds. Conservatives everywhere love to hear somebody finally stick it to the elites.”

***

“In an ideal world, Romney would be a strong candidate. But it’s not an ideal world. In fact, it’s a downright mean, nasty, grubby world of imperfect men struggling to confront serious historical and philosophical forces while battling each other for power and prestige. Segments on the right have not entirely digested the notion that Obama and his party are running on a platform of contempt for America and ‘fundamental change’ for the future; it’s like they think the Dems don’t really mean it. And that taking the high road by confining the campaign to “jobs” will appeal to the ‘real’ America somewhere out there in the heartland. And that playing rough is beneath us.

“Newt played rough in South Carolina and won big. That ought to tell the GOP something. Whether it will is another story. If this loss tonight makes Romney a stronger, better, more articulate candidate, terrific. But he has to learn from this stunning defeat: The base is itching for a fight with everything the Obama Democrats stand for and they don’t much care who gives it to them, just as long as somebody does. Tonight, that’s Newt.

“As the late Al Davis used to say, ‘Just win, baby.’ And, as the Democrats say, ‘by any means necessary.’ It’s high time they got a taste of their own medicine — and understand there’s a lot more where that came from.”

***

“Yet the elites ignored the roar. After all, the roar came from the unwashed. It came from the fans of cockfights. It came from tea party folks and other such rabble. Inside the sterile cable studios and on their laptops, the pundits scored their debate and their election prospects without the roar. They have their little formulas about who has to raise doubts here and who has to score points there.

“What they don’t understand is what the roar means.

“The roar is passion. The roar is intensity. The roar is pent up frustration. The roar, put another way, is the national mood of conservatives. It is a roar that will demand a fighter. It will demand that those who want our votes must not cower in the face of the liberal template. If fact, it is a roar that demands that we do not accept any liberal templates.

“That’s why Newt has gotten all the roars, and why he has vaulted into serious contention only days after being written off.”

***

“But above it all we can hear the weeping, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth of the Republican establishment as Gingrich’s victory sends them into full-blown panic. I’m not talking about mere fear, nor normal nervousness. Not even the feeling you get when the captain says, “We’ve lost power in one of our four engines.’ No, this is worse. Worse even than when your doctor says, ‘I don’t like the looks of that shadow on the X-ray.’

“This is terror. Chest-clutching, breath-sucking, soul-shaking panic. This is your teenage daughter telling you, ‘I think I’m in trouble.’ This is a Turkish border guard pulling you into a holding room when you’ve got a baggie of coke in your pocket. This is what George H.W. Bush famously called ‘deep doo-doo.'”

***

“Contrary to the received wisdom up until now, Gingrich is the favorite in the Sunshine State. Yes, Romney has the financial advantage. Yes, he has been on the air with ads for weeks. Yes, there has been early voting in Florida under way for weeks, during which time Romney’s air of inevitability will have given him an edge. But Florida is a closed primary, the first contest so far in which only registered Republicans are allowed to cast ballots. And the state’s GOP voters are far more conservative and anti-Establishment than many people understand. This is especially true in the panhandle of northern Florida, where Gingrich is likely to take up residence for much of the time between now and the vote on January 31. But watch for Gingrich to play hard for the state’s Hispanic voters — and not just the Cuban-Americans who are thick on the ground in South Florida but also the polyglot Latino population around Orlando — by emphasizing his stance on immigration, which is notably more moderate than Romney’s. Between all this and the wave of momentum and free media coverage he’ll enjoy coming out of South Carolina, the former speaker, I think, has the upper hand, though not by a lot…

“If Gingrich wins Florida, the Republican Establishment is going to have a meltdown that makes Three Mile Island look like a marshmallow roast. Why? Because the Establishment will be staring down the barrel of two utterly unpalatable choices. On the one hand, Gingrich’s national favorable-unfavorable ratings of 26.5 and 58.6 percent, respectively make him not just unelectable against Obama but also mean that he would likely be a ten-ton millstone around the necks of down-ballot Republican candidates across the country. And on the other, Romney has shown in two successive contests—one in a bellwether Republican state, the other in a key swing state—an inability to beat his deeply unpopular rival. If this scenario unfolds, the sound of GOP grandees whispering calls for a white knight, be it Indiana governor Mitch Daniels (who, conveniently, is delivering the Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night) or Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan or even Jeb Bush, will be deafening.”

***

“The buzz in Washington now is that the Republican Establishment fears Gingrich will cause them to lose the House and not get the Senate. Put another way, the current Republican leadership fears that the man who helped the GOP take back the House for the first time in 40 years and his allies in the tea party who helped take back the House in 2010 will cause the GOP to now lose.

“They’ll lose alright — they’ll lose power to others. That’s their real fear.”

***

“Were Gingrich to pull off an upset in Florida, the concern among GOP elites now would immediately become something closer to unadulterated panic. The grumbling about Romney would turn into the start of a Dump Mitt campaign.

“But Romney backers say not to worry.

“‘He’s going to win Florida,’ assured Pawlenty.”

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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“Apparently, South Carolinians would rather have the emotional satisfaction of a snotty remark toward the president than to beat Obama in the fall.”

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