UPDATE: So now we know who won -- by 12 percentage points, no less -- and all eyes turn to the Florida primary, approaching on Jan. 31. The Washington Post's Dan Balz looks ahead to Florida in this report. And an Associated Press report by Bruce Smith notes that since Ronald Reagan in 1980, every Republican who has won South Carolina has gone on to claim his party's nomination.
YESTERDAY MORNING: I'm watching today's presidential primary in South Carolina with a mixture of fascination, dismay and amusement. The smart money is on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who, rather than being destroyed in the heavily Christian fundamentalist world of the South by his ex-wife's revelation that he wanted an "open marriage," has managed to turn it to his advantage.
How? By attacking the media, of course -- the big, bad purveyors of all evil. Here's the trick: Gingrich's relationship with the press, which looks like hate, is actually symbiotic love. In Thursday night's debate, he called the media "destructive, vicious (and) negative," but the truth is, he couldn't do without it. Conservative voters, many of whom mistrust the mainstream media, loved his bombast, and poll numbers suggest that he may end up with a solid win over Mitt Romney. We'll know soon.
As for CNN's John King, the debate moderator who kicked things off with an "open marriage" question, the results are more mixed. True, anyone who didn't know King's name now does, but he's getting plenty of criticism from politicians and media colleagues alike (most of whom would have done the very same thing had they had the chance). I thought King's question was perfectly acceptable, but came too early in the circus, er, debate proceedings. And he failed miserably to follow up effectively.
At any rate, as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told Fox News today, the King question was "a gift" for Gingrich. In Santorum's words: “I don’t know whether Newt paid him to ask that question, but that’s about the nicest thing he’s done for a Republican in a long, long time.”
If you're interested (and, come on, how can you not be?), here's some of the best reading today on the subject while you wait for the results:
Paul Farhi of the Washington Post's analysis on Gingrich's relationship with the press
Ginger Gibson's report for Politico.com on how Gingrich and the media are pals on the campaign trail.
Charles Blow's New York Times column on Gingrich's Southern strategy