Columbia, SC —
I was out of the political loop for a spell yesterday and so missed Bob McDonnell’s arrival in the state to stump alongside Mitt Romney in what appears to be, and feels like, a spectacular collapse in support for the former Massachusetts Governor. Romney, who was leading by double figures just a week ago now admits he could lose today.
A thoroughly unscientific poll I took of a group of Columbia residents on McDonnell’s visit and endorsement drew a surprisingly uniform response: “Who is Bob McDonnell?”
Even after I explained who Bob was, and how Romney had once said he he would make a good vice presidential pick, I got shrugs in return.
Sorry Bob, South Carolina just isn’t that into you. Or at least not yet.
The real polls look grim — Rasmussen’s final survey further confirms the drastic swing  in Romney’s fortunes. Even Gallup’s national survey of the race shows a huge drop  in Romney’s base of support.
Does that necessarily mean Newt is going to win today? Going by the polls alone, he’s got a great opportunity to do so. And despite the reaction from outside the state, and here on BD, to Newt’s debate exchange with CNN’s John King, that moment may very well have sealed the deal for him. South Carolinians — who have had their share of political figures with secret families, extramarital affairs and closeted sexual orientations — saw King not just as a bully, but as a boor, too.
Columbia, like Charleston, is a Democratic town. But the Republicans I have spoken to here are Romney supporters. They aren’t thrilled by him, but they have settled for him. For them, Gingrich has too much baggage and the debate exchange only confirmed their suspicions that a Gingrich win here will be celebrated in the Obama White House.
And no one talks about Ron Paul. Sorry, Doctor. And Sen. Santorum? He’s a non-factor.
But no matter which candidate they support, the people I’ve spoken to here all want the same thing: for it all to be over.
That will bring an end to the robo-calls. They have been incessant, to the point where some folks have told me they have resorted to turning off their phones in order to get through dinner without interruption. The interesting side-effect of that? It might be skewing the poll results, at least at the margins.
But that’s all academic now. The real polls open in just a bit. And by the time I get back to Richmond, we’ll know if Newt’s rise has been real, and whether he should add John King to his Christmas card list, or whether Romney manages to hold on.
In the meantime, we welcome your thoughts and predictions. The betting window is open…