Gingrich vs. Romney — next round

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has managed an extraordinary political victory in the South Carolina primaries, surging to a victory in a state where just a week ago it looked like former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney would win.

The exit polling indicates that many voters made up their minds in the last week and that the debates were salient in their decision making. What Gingrich demonstrated was not just his skillful command of issues, but his willingness to make forceful attacks against the media and against Romney.

The Romney campaign has made a calculated decision to make their direct attacks against President Barack Obama, not other Republican candidates. Those intra-party attacks have been made by pro-Romney Super PACs and Romney surrogates.

Romney’s future success may now depend on his willingness to make direct attacks against Gingrich. Romney’s attacks against a non-present Obama have been relatively effective — but how well he manages to directly take on a very present Gingrich may be a major factor in how well Romney moves forward.

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