Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A week ago it looked like Mitt Romney had the Republican Presidential nomination in the bag. But, with Newt Gingrich’s big win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday the Republican Presidential race has been upended.
Romney immediately took to the airwaves in Florida — the next primary contest — to call Gingrich erratic.
Gingrich is fighting for funding, needing a cash infusion to take on Romney’s well-funded campaign.
Gingrich raised $1 million in the first 24 hours after his South Carolina win and is now leading in at least one Florida poll.
The new uncertainty means Minnesota’s caucuses, which are Feb. 7, are suddenly a lot more important.
Monday morning Ron Paul rolled out TV ads here. Paul and Gingrich are also running radio ads locally.
“Minnesota is non-binding so delegates are not apportioned but it’s a very important symbolic win and for the candidates looking to build momentum. Minnesota is all of a sudden a must come to state,” said Prof. Larry Jacobs of the Humphrey Institute.
Four years ago, Romney won the caucuses here beating John McCain by 20 points. Back then Gov. Tim Pawlenty was a co-chair of the McCain campaign.
“In Minnesota, we’re not a hot bed of republicanism so we have some work to do,” he said.
But this time around, after dropping out of the presidential race, Pawlenty has endorsed Romney.
“Governor Pawlenty is one of the leading national surrogates for the Romney campaign,” said Brian McClung, Pawlenty’s former deputy chief of staff.
McClung said while he thinks Romney will do well, Ron Paul and Gingrich could pull off a surprise.
“I think you are going to see Ron Paul with a real active group, I think Newt Gingrich and his attacks on the media have been really popular with conservatives so I think Newt is going to do well and obviously Mitt Romney has had an organized substantial campaign this whole time,” McClung said.
Minnesota’s role could grow even greater if the newest polls out of Florida turn out to be true.
They show Gingrich is suddenly ahead in that state with voters going to the polls there Jan. 31. And that means Romney needs to do well in other states including right here.