CHARLESTON, S.C. -- I picked the wrong precinct. Wanting to sample the mood in this wealthy, veteran-heavy, snowbird-surfeited city, I failed and chose a high school in a transitional neighborhood (near the Citadel) that mostly goes Democratic.
So, no great surge of voters, but a couple of lessons. First: No anecdotal evidence of Romney support, in an area where the GOP establishment candidate can usually do well. None of the eight voters I met supported Romney; only one of them, an older woman who decided against giving her name, even thought about it. (She realized that she liked Gingrich's policies better, even though she "struggled" with his ethics.) A young couple, five piercings between them, cast Ron Paul protest votes. Betty (also shy: This is something of a problem with interviewing older South Carolina women), cast a vote for Rick Santorum after seeing him on Piers Morgan tonight. "I was won over by his family and his values," he said. What did she make of Gingrich's values? "I have nothing to say about that. I can't say anything about that."
The rest of my sample: Newt voters. Peter Caligradis realized he was in the wrong polling place, but planned to vote for Gingrich. "I'm voting for whoever's more conservative," he explained. "Romney's compromised too much on abortion, on health care, issues like that." Could Gingrich win? He bit his lop. "See, that's what I'm contemplating. But I'm aware that Romney would probably win the nomination right away if he won this state."
Jayne Harmon cast a Newt vote then waited outside for her husband. "He's the only candidate who can and will dismantle Obama in a debate," she said. "The others are nice guys who will probably finish last." I wanted to hear more, but her husband arrived, stared daggers at me, and said: "Is this the press? We're getting out of here."