Still, I live in Charleston County, which Romney carried. My interpretation of Gingrich's success is that the undecided South Carolina voters chose him for the same reason they like talk radio and Fox News. They like to hear someone who will stand up to the liberals. While they want someone to beat Obama (or so they say,) perhaps they haven't been looking at polls of Gingrich's favorable and unfavorable ratings.
What about silver linings? Ron Paul more than tripled his support from 2008. (He only received 3.6 percent of the vote, so it was increased by a factor of 3 and 1/2.) This is similar, and even slightly better, than the improvement in New Hampshire (8 percent to 23 percent is an improvement by a factor of 2.75) He did only slightly better than double in Iowa.
According to the exit polls by CBS, Paul came in third with independents (23 percent) and was close to Romney (25 percent) and not that far behind Gingrich (31 percent.) With self-described Republicans, Paul had 10 percent and came in way behind.
What about age? Paul came in first with voters between 18-24 and 25-29. He came in second with voters 30 - 39. (And also in second with all voters under 40.) But when the 40 - 49 group was added in, he dropped to fourth. While Gingrich's 37 percent was close to his total result, Paul's 19 percent was very close to Romney's 20 percent and Santorum's 21 percent in the under 50 group.
The demographic where Paul really did bad was the 50 - 65 (11 percent) and over 65 group (7 percent.) It didn't help that more than 60 percent of the voters were over 50!
Two other interesting results from the exit polls is that Paul does best who voters that describe themselves as moderates or liberals (18 percent,) and better than those who say they are conservative (13 percent) and very conservative (9 percent.) Unfortunately, Paul still came in third with the liberal/moderate group, only beating Santorum.
Also, Paul's support is negatively correlated with anti-abortion sentiment. Pro-choice (18 percent,) moderately pro-life (12 percent,) and hard-core pro-life (10 percent.) Unfortunately, Paul only came in third with pro-choice voters, (and fourth with the other groups.) I hope the Paul campaign gets this message. I received a mailing and two robo-calls explaining how pro-life Paul is. It was also the message of one his TV ads (though it was pretty soft core.)
I was disappointed that Paul came in fourth in Charleston County (though Santorum was only slightly ahead 14.6 percent to 13.9 percent) Paul did better here than statewide, but not by much. He did much better in what we call "Indian country" up there in the mountains. (Greenville County provided lots of Paul votes, and Anderson County was a high point too.)
Even closer to home, Paul came in third on James Island. Gingrich edged out Romney by 19 votes (33 percent each.) Paul had 17 percent and Santorum 14 percent. (Notice that the results for my home territory is what I expected for the state.) My home precinct, James Island 11 provided the most votes for Paul on the Island (85), but it was only 19 percent. Paul actually won James Island 8B, with 29 percent (and 79 votes.) There were a number of other precincts where Paul had more than 20 percent, but he only came in second in two of them. (Beating Romney.) Across Charleston County, Paul won a number of precincts, but most had very few voters (like 10.) These were likely in black neighborhoods, where there are very few who vote in the Republican primary.
I was disappointed that the Paul campaign seemed to almost bypass South Carolina. On the other hand, I think part of the reason is that they tried hard back in 2008 and did very poorly. And also, the primary is winner take all. While only half of the delegates are at large, it is necessary to come in first in congressional districts to get any of the other delegates. (We don't have "slates" of delegates, however. The actual delegates are selected in convention and to the degree Paul supporters can win, they will be free to vote after the first ballot and on platform questions as they think best.)
P.S. It is sad that Gingrich appears to be adopting the gold standard. If the Republican nominee wants to keep the votes of Paul's supporters in November, I hope he chooses some other issue.