With the polls tightening in Iowa and Mitt Romney apparently holding the line in New Hampshire, the surging Newt Gingrich told Iowa Public Television Thursday that he doesn’t need to win in either state to prove he’s a viable candidate.
The Gingrich firewall, he said, has always been South Carolina. So all he really has to do is do well enough in Iowa and New Hampshire to get to the Palmetto State.
Gingrich, from Iowa Public TV:
We always thought that we had to come in the top three in Iowa, do reasonably well in New Hampshire — recognizing that that is Mitt’s last big fortress. If he can’t carry New Hampshire, the race is over in terms of his candidacy. So I’ve always assumed I had to do well enough here to be seen as a national candidate. Remember, a month ago if we were doing this interview, nobody would have thought of me as the frontrunner. So I’ve always had to have a strategy with very limited resources of using good ideas…to gradually build a momentum.
“The goal, frankly, was to get to South Carolina, where we have a very big base,” Gingrich explained, before ticking off endorsements and tea party straw poll wins in the state. “I’ve always thought that once we get to South Carolina and Florida, I could begin to win the race decisively.”
Gingrich acknowledged things have changed for him — “for some reason the country began to talk to itself over the last six weeks and all of a sudden we just began to get supporters” —- but he didn’t say his expectations in Iowa should shift with his growing support.
That could suggest a longer more drawn-out primary than the one many expected to see when all this started. (For the record, Romney sees things going for the long haul, too.)
But Gingrich’s words also serve to lower expectations in Iowa. If a win slips through his fingers, big deal — no one ever expected him to be a player there anyway, he says. If he can’t stop Romney in New Hampshire, who cares? That state is Romney country to begin with.
Should Gingrich lose Iowa after all the talk of his surge, it would lead many to say his rise was just another bubble in a long series of them. Gingrich is trying to keep that from happening by directing all eyes to South Carolina.