Former Pennsylvania congressman Bob Walker — a senior adviser to Newt Gingrich and a longtime confidant — tells me that, after tonight’s debate, South Carolina is within reach for the former Georgia lawmaker. Walker predicts that Gingrich’s able turn — especially his exchange with Juan Williams — will persuade undecided conservatives to settle on the former speaker.
“He was very strong tonight and showed his command of the issues,” Walker says. “When people take a look at this, they’ll see someone tough enough and smart enough” to take on President Obama. “That’s going to be a major factor,” in the Palmetto State calculus, he says.
“For the rest of this week, we’re going to stress that Gingrich is also electable, and if you have the choice between an electable liberal, Mitt Romney, and an electable conservative, Newt Gingrich, the choice will be easy,” Walker says.
Beyond a bump in the polls, Walker also sees tonight’s debate as an opportunity for Gingrich to pivot away from Bain attacks. “We’ve suffered some backlash on those issues over the past week, but his answers on it tonight were right on target,” Walker says. In many respects, “he has moved on to other issues that we think are going to be key for South Carolina voters.”