WASHINGTON – Don’t argue with Chuck Norris.
That was apparently the late decision of South Carolina voters who handed Newt Gingrich a stunning victory in South Carolina yesterday – coming from more than 10 points behind in most pre-election polls taken days earlier.
It was late Friday that the GOP’s biggest celebrity endorsed Gingrich in his WND column. In 2008, Mike Huckabee also got a huge bounce in support after the martial-arts and action-star legend made a similar endorsement in WND.
Gingrich not only won the primary, but he may have won a majority of the votes cast. Late tallies show him with 50 percent of the vote to Romney’s 22. Santorum had 17 percent with most of the remainder going to Ron Paul.
Gingrich won with the help of self-identified tea partiers, evangelicals and young, white men, according to exit polls. Those same exit polls show Romney lost support because of the attacks on his role in Bain Capital and his hedging over if and when to release his own tax returns.
But it was Gingrich’s debate recent performances that had everyone talking. In the last South Carolina debate televised by CNN, he took a tough question about his ex-wife’s charges and turned it around on the media to a standing ovation. About 65 percent of South Carolina Republican voters said it was Gingrich’s debate performances that wooed them.
Late deciders went to Gingrich by 2-1 over Romney.
Gingrich won the tea party vote over Romney by 47 to 21. One of 10 of those voters said they would not vote for Romney even if he got the nomination to run against Barack Obama.
Gingrich also won among evangelicals handily – 44 to 21, suggesting the recent blistering interview with Marianne Gingrich was not hurting the candidate.
“We don’t have the kind of money at least one of the candidates has,” Gingrich said in his victory remarks. “But we do have ideas and we do have people. And we proved here in South Carolina that people power with the right ideas beats big money.”
Within an hour Chuck Norris’ endorsement breaking on WND Friday night, Gingrich Tweeted: “Honored to have Chuck Norris’ endorsement. He will make an excellent Secretary of Attack.” He followed it up on a more serious note. “In all seriousness, Chuck is a great American and man of deep convictions. Very flattered.”