While the vote count showed Mitt losing South Carolina, the exit polls showed something even more disturbing for him — a rejection of the very rationale of his campaign.
Mitt contends that he is the most electable. But of the 45% of voters who said electability was their top reason for choosing a candidate, 51% went for Newt and only 37% went for Mitt.
Similarly Mitt contends that he has the right experience. But of the 21% of voters who said the right experience was their top reason, 49% went for Newt, compared to 34% for Mitt.
So his claims of electability and experience aren’t resonating with GOP primary voters. It’s one thing to tweak your message after a major loss, but it looks as if Mitt has to go back to the drawing board on the very rationale for his run.
The exit polls showed a couple of other interesting things.
18% of voters said the most important reason for their choice was strong moral character. Newt got only 6% of those voters, but Mitt at 19% lost out to Saint Santorum at 42% and Paul at 31%. It may be that the moral credit Mitt gets for his personal life is diluted by questions about his work at Bain.
But where Mitt really struck out was among the 14% of voters for whom the most important quality in a candidate was being a true conservative. Mitt got only 2% of those voters, compared to 38% for Newt.
Mitt, you really need to shake up your staff. You’re not the greatest candidate in the world, but politics is all about putting lipstick on pigs, and you need some new makeup artists.