Did CNN’s John King swing the South Carolina primary to Newt Gingrich?
That’s what several Fox News analysts said on Saturday, including former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who said that Gingrich should take King out to a steak dinner for his tough questioning during Thursday night's debate.
King opened CNN’s candidates debate by asking Gingrich a controversial question about an interview ABC conducted with his ex-wife Marianne in which she said the former Speaker wanted an “open marriage.”
Gingrich then attacked King, calling his second wife’s claim “trash” and saying he was “appalled” that King would open a presidential debate with such a question.
Gingrich went on to have another strong debate, and attacking the media has long been a specialty of his.
In his victory speech after his win in South Carolina on Saturday, he took another opportunity to say the media elite was out of touch with the American people.
But it was King's question and the debate that Fox analysts argued swung the vote since a large number of voters were still undecided.
“Taking on the media is always good in a Republican primary,” Fox analyst Karl Rove said. “John King couldn’t have set up the question in a more positive way for Gingrich to just nail it and haul it right out of the park.”
Marianne Gingrich’s claims clearly did not have a huge effect on her ex-husband's popularity among women in South Carolina, as he won the largest number of votes with both sexes.
For its part, CNN political analysts blamed continued discontent with Mitt Romney and said that the ABC interview may prove more damaging in the future. Analysts such as Wolf Blitzer did say the debates gave Gingrich a big boost, as they almost did in Iowa until Romney's negative advertising overwhelmed Gingrich's underfunded campaign there.
Gingrich, in a rare case of modesty — or perhaps false modesty — said in his victory speech that he is not a particularly good debater but that he "articulates the deepest held values" of the American people.