This week we saw evangelicals come out in support of Rick Santorum and prostitutes come out for Ron Paul. Mitt Romney's status as the inevitable candidate is in question and Newt stays on the attack. These are the stories we were watching this week.
Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry drop outThe week started off with the announcement that Jon Huntsman would drop out of the race and support Mitt Romney, saying that Mittens is the best person to defeat Barack Obama. Huntsman's endorsement came just days after he criticized Mitt Romney for saying he liked to fire people and, three days later, Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out and endorsed Newt Gingrich. Perry's backing of Gingrich comes a week after both of them ganged up on Mitt Romney, calling him a vulture capitalist. But as far as the impact these endorsements will have on the South Carolina primary, it's difficult to say.
Mitt Romney's tax problemThe front runner has had a rough two weeks. It started with questions about his time at Bain Capital and has continued about when or if he will release his tax returns. His worst enemy, however, appears to be himself. Romney has been shooting himself in the foot — repeatedly. Last week, he said he "likes being able to fire people," and while that quote was taken out of context, Romney has fumbled over and over regarding the release of his tax returns. He told msnbc's Chuck Todd a month ago that he wasn't planning on releasing them, then later he said he would consider it, and now he says he plans to release his 2011 tax information in April. His change of position makes it look as though he's got something to hide, and it's given power to Gingrich heading into South Carolina.
Newt Surge: Episode IIILast week, Newt Gingrich's and Rick Perry's campaigns were being called "zombies" due to the fact that there was absolutely no reason for them to stay in the race other than to hurt Romney. Now, with Perry out, Gingrich's poll numbers are on the rise and his attacks on Romney over taxes and his history with Bain Capital appear to be working. What's even more astonishing is that in the course of one month, Gingrich has gone from possible frontrunner to fourth place and back to closing in on Romney. His appearances in recent debates have definitely helped. Most agree that his performance on Monday night's debate was solid, while last night he had the advantage of bringing the crowd to its feet on the first question asked. All of this despite his second ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich, coming forward and saying that the former House Speaker wanted an open marriage so he could continue seeing his then mistress/current wife, Callista. By choosing to face this particular issue head on (and then subsequently blaming the media for pouring oil on the fire), Gingrich was able to quiet this problem — at least for now.
Iowa goes for SantorumRemember when Mitt Romney won Iowa? Well that didn't happen. Turns out that it looks like Rick Santorum beat Romney in the Iowa Caucuses two weeks ago. Romney did call Santorum yesterday to congratulate the former Senator for his standing in Iowa. Please note that Romney advisors were quick to point out that he didn't actually, technically concede. He just congratulated an opponent for his standing in an election where new votes show him in first place.
Pimpin for PaulWhile Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have been fighting for support among evangelical Christians, Ron Paul has gained the support of employees from Moonlite Bunny Ranch, a brothel. The prostitutes and their pimp, Dennis Hof, came on The Last Word to talk about why Ron Paul's consistent libertarian views are just right for them.
Coming up tomorrow...It would be very surprising if Mitt Romney blew away his competition tomorrow night the way he did in New Hampshire. With ex-wives, tax returns and rough debate outings dominating the headlines this week, expect a close one. msnbc's coverage of the South Carolina primary begins tomorrow evening at 6pm ET.