Sunday, November 13, 2011

"[A] lot of [South Carolina] Tea Party folks are migrating towards Newt."

The Republican presidential primary race is still fluid in the Palmetto State, but some in the grassroots are starting to get their hearts set on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Lin Bennett, chairwoman of the Charleston Republican Party, hasn't decided which candidate she'll support but observes, "a lot of state Tea Party folks are migrating towards Newt."

"That just tells me a lot of vetting is beginning to happen," says Bennett, pointing to the Tea Party activists' reputation for being tough and thorough judges of politicians' conservative records before deciding whom to back and whom to oppose.

A hundred miles north on the South Carolina coastline, a similar sentiment seems to be forming. Gingrich won an unusual straw poll held at the Rotelli's pizza and pasta restaurant in Myrtle Beach where an estimated 85 to 100 top local Republicans gathered to watch the CNBC debate Wednesday. Their opinion of who won the debate, as counted by an informal paper ballot, broke down as follows:

Newt 57%

Cain 25%

Romney 16%

Paul 2%

Bachmann, Huntsman, Perry, Santorum 0%

Participating in the straw poll were members of the Horry County Republican Party, Carolina Forest Republican Club, South Strand Republican Club, Northern Horry Republican Club, the Myrtle Beach Tea Party and Carolina Patriots - a combination of both establishment and grassroots conservatives. A second question on the ballot - who is your choice for the Republican candidate - produced the following result:

Newt 52%

Cain 36%

Paul 11%

Santorum 2%

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