Newt Gingrich's ten-point knockout of Mitt Romney in South Carolina has turned the Republican primaries into a street fight.
Romney, whose campaign can be boiled down to presenting himself as the least objectionable candidate with the best haircut, was viewed by many pundits as a shoo-in in South Carolina.
But Gingrich's bold rhetoric and clear vision have won him South Carolina and seem to be what southern voters – a significant portion of the new GOP base - are looking for.
Gingrich's campaign said it had raked in $1 million in the first 24 hours since South Carolina's primary Saturday, which more than anything forced deep-pockets Romney on the offensive.
A reeling Romney on Monday renewed his call for Gingrich to release records from his work as a consultant, openly speculating those documents and records from the ethics investigation that led Gingrich to resign from the House of Representatives could show “potentially wrongful activity of some kind.”
“We could see an October surprise a day from Newt Gingrich,” Romney told reporters. “And so let’s see the records from the ethics investigation, let’s see what they show. Let’s see who his clients were at the time he was lobbying Republican congressmen for Medicare Part D."
However, Romney offered no evidence that he knew of wrongful activity by Gingrich. Nor did his advisers when pressed by reporters. The allegation was the latest sign that Romney is searching furiously for a way to blunt Gingrich’s momentum - and that could hurt him in Florida.
Florida, which was ground zero for the housing bust and has a 10 percent unemployment rate. For those voters Romney's don't-upset-the-applecart approach is a dead letter sure to leave voters looking for change cold. For them Gingrich's bold, from-the-hip style says hope in spades.
At present Gingrich has leapt to an 8 point lead in Florida ahead of its primaries.
While Romney has decided do go negative while making sure the applecart remains upright, Gingrich has mocked him as a status quo contender saying he was "somebody who has released none of his business records, who has decided to make a stand on transparency without being transparent."
After initially balking, Romney is set to release personal tax records on Tuesday.
But Gingrich didn't stop there and dismissed Romney's charge that he was a "lobbyist" - which are fighting words in Republican circles. Romney has been calling Gingrich a lobbyist. Gingrich flatly denied lobbying on behalf of Freddie Mac or other clients.
"It's not true. He knows it's not true. He's deliberately saying things he knows are false," Gingrich said. "I just think that's what the next week will be like."
But Gingrich seemed to be enjoying the attention far more than he was wounded by the barbs - and predicted he would upset the political establishment in the coming weeks.
He also seemed to be enjoying the attention far more than he was fretting over his detractor’s barbs.
"I think you're going to see the establishment go crazy in the next week or two," Gingrich said.