Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer predicted that former House speaker Newt Gingrich will win Saturday’s do-or-die South Carolina primary — if he repeats his “sparkling” debate performance Thursday night.
“This is a very crucial debate coming up,” said Krauthammer, appearing on “The O'Reilly Factor” on Tuesday. “If Gingrich can repeat the performance he had — which was sparkling — and Romney again sort of sits on his heels ... it is possible you could get a Gingrich surge.”
Host Bill O'Reilly agreed that GOP front-runner Mitt Romney can’t afford another mixed performance such as the one he put in at Monday’s debate in Myrtle Beach.
“There’s one more debate and Romney has to step it up. He can’t be waffling around with the tax question or the Bain question. He’s got to come out and be stronger,” O’Reilly said. “I think if Romney has a bad debate performance on Thursday, he might lose South Carolina. He might lose.”
Krauthammer said that Gingrich’s succinct explanation of Republican ideals would have played well with any audience and drew a rare standing ovation from the audience at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
“What he did, and the reason that was such a winning answer — it actually got a standing ovation which is fairly unusual in a debate like this — was because he was able to frame in a minute, in 60 seconds, the fundamental difference between the understanding of compassion on the left vs. an understanding of what compassion is on the right,” according to Krauthammer. “He pointed out that the liberal view is handouts and dependency and paternalism. That’s ever since the Great Society. And the view on the right is it’s a job. It’s independence. It’s dignity and it’s a person standing on his own.”
The former speaker was able to frame his answer in “a very deft way and that’s why he hit it out of the park,” Krauthammer added. “I think that will play to a conservative audience or to an independent audience, which is where the election would be won or lost.”
While he still predicts Romney will win the nomination, Krauthammer said that the former Massachusetts governor won’t have an easy route to victory if he loses to Gingrich in the Palmetto State.
“I still think that Romney is odds-on to win the nomination, however it ends the short circuit. It means that it’s not going to be over on Jan. 31,” he said.
Krauthammer said that Romney appeared to be ill prepared for Monday’s debate.
“I don’t quite understand how could he not have been prepared for a question on his tax returns. And how could he not have prepared a nice short, succinct human and humane answer about how what he did at Bain Capital really helps the economy and helps individual workers in the end? He didn’t really have that. He kind of stumbled around.”
O’Reilly added that the race will most likely end for Texas Gov. Rick Perry following the South Carolina primary. He also predicted that the race will come down to a three-man contest among Gingrich, Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
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