King opened the debate by asking Newt Gingrich about allegations made by the former House Speaker’s (second) ex-wife that Gingrich asked her for an open marriage before leaving her for his current wife, then a congressional staffer. Gingrich responded with an adjective-laden tirade against King and “the news media,” which you can watch here:
After the debate, CNN seemed to hold a kind of combination damage control/group therapy session as fellow commentators explained why asked the question and assured King that he was still a terrific moderator.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney flubbed a question on his income taxes, drawing boos when he nervously waffled over whether he would release his income tax returns. “People in South Carolina don’t want to talk about tax returns,” defended Romney surrogate and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, no stranger to tax problems herself.
The latest polling results, however, tell a different story. Public Policy Polling data released Thursday night show Gingrich with a six-point lead over Romney, though that was before the open marriage revelation on Thursday. Intrade predictions for South Carolina have also risen to 60% in Gringrich’s favor.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum attacked Romney on abortion, perhaps looking to counteract anonymous fliers circulating around the state describing an affair Santorum’s wife had decades ago with an abortion doctor. Ron Paul also weighed in on the issue, but only after the raucous South Carolina crowd booed John King into including the Texas Representative on the question as well.
As South Carolina lives up to its reputation for volatility in the last few days before the primary, it remains to be seen whether Gingrich can catch up to Romney before Republicans go to the polls on Saturday. One thing, however, is clear — don’t count on Gingrich giving any exclusive interviews to CNN anytime soon.