From Public Policy Polling:
Newt Gingrich heads into South Carolina election day as the clear front runner in the state: he’s now polling at 37% to 28% for Mitt Romney, 16% for Rick Santorum, and 14% for Ron Paul.
Gingrich’s lead has actually increased in the wake of his ex-wife’s controversial interview with ABC. Although one night poll results should always be interpreted with caution, he led the final night of the field period by a 40-26 margin…
The other reason his ex-wife’s interview isn’t causing him much trouble is that there’s a lot of skepticism about it. Only 31% of voters say they think her accusations are true while 35% think they are false and 34% are unsure. 51% of voters say that they have ‘no concerns’ about what came out in the interview.
The skepticism of Republican voters toward the media is helping Gingrich as well. Just 14% of likely voters have a generally favorable opinion of the media, while 77% view it negatively. Gingrich’s attacks on the media have clearly played well with the party base.
I have two reactions to this. First, there’s the Republican hypocrisy (summarized in the acronym IOKIYAR: “It’s OK if you’re a Republican”). Without making any excuses for Bill Clinton, was his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky really much worse than Newt Gingrich having a six year affair with a Congressional staffer, and when caught by his wife, proposing that she agree to an open marriage so he could continue the affair? What put so many Republicans in high dudgeon about Clinton is, the polls suggest, something which causes Republicans to rally around Newt Gingrich so he can beat Mitt Romney, an untrustworthy plutocrat who nevertheless appears to be an honorable and devoted husband and father.
But there’s also an irony here. What the Republicans didn’t get about the Monica Lewinsky scandal is that many Americans have brief fascinations with lurid and titillating stories of celebrity infidelity, but in the end they generally don’t think it’s something that should disqualify a person who’s otherwise performing their job responsibly and competently. Democrats and a lot of swing voters are like that regarding all politicians. At least now we see that a good share of Republicans have the same attitude…provided the philanderer in question is a fellow-Republican, and the affair was with a person of the opposite sex.
The proximate cause of Gingrich’s demise as Speaker was the Republican attempt to impeach Bill Clinton made Clinton more popular, so Newt Gingrich was (justifiably) made the scapegoat. Now, after that largely self-inflicted wound of invoking sympathy for an adulterous political rival, Newt Gingrich is on the verge of winning the South Carolina primary because Republican voters are rallying to him as the news media once again reminds everyone that Newt Gingrich is a cad.