I’ve had a bunch of friends over to dinner tonight, and just got the news from South Carolina. Holy cow, Gingrich went all Muhammad Ali on Romney tonight. That’s not a victory, that’s shock and awe.

Romney and the GOP Establishment have to be messing their britches. Oh, though, to be David Plouffe tonight, facing the possibility of running Obama against the man of whom George F. Will said:

Gingrich’s unsurprising descent into sinister radicalism — intimidation of courts — is redundant evidence that he is not merely the least conservative candidate, he is thoroughly anti-conservative. He disdains the central conservative virtue, prudence, and exemplifies progressivism’s defining attribute — impatience with impediments to the political branches’ wielding of untrammeled power. He exalts the will of the majority of the moment, at least as he, tribune of the vox populi, interprets it.

Atop the Republican ticket, Gingrich would guarantee Barack Obama’s reelection, would probably doom Republicans’ hopes of capturing the Senate and might cost them control of the House. If so, Gingrich would at last have achieved something — wreckage, but something — proportional to his swollen sense of himself.

 So, now we have three states, with three different winners. But Newt has the momentum going into Florida, which is bigger in terms of delegate count than the first three combined. I think Santorum drops out before the Florida vote.
UPDATE: In the light of day, I still believe Romney’s going to win this thing. Hard to see how Santorum stays in now, given his lack of money and organization, and what I believe will be a quick consolidation of the anti-Romney GOP vote behind Newt, given the magnitude of his SC victory. But given what a lousy candidate he has been, it seems now that the main reason Romney would win at this point is by creating enough panicked doubt among Republicans about how a Gingrich candidacy in the fall would deliver the White House back to Obama (as surely it would) to cause those Republicans to vote Romney. In other words, they’d be voting against Gingrich, of whom George F. Will also wrote, in a column that tepidly praised Romney as the lesser of two evils (Obama being the worse evil to Will):

Gingrich, however, embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive. And there is his anti-conservative confidence that he has a comprehensive explanation of, and plan to perfect, everything.

Granted, his grandiose rhetoric celebrating his “transformative” self is entertaining: Recently he compared his revival of his campaign to Sam Walton’s and Ray Kroc’s creations of Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, two of America’s largest private-sector employers. There is almost artistic vulgarity in Gingrich’s unrepented role as a hired larynx for interests profiting from such government follies as ethanol and cheap mortgages. His Olympian sense of exemption from standards and logic allowed him, fresh from pocketing $1.6 million from Freddie Mac (for services as a “historian”), to say “if you want to put people in jail,” look at “the politicians who profited from” Washington’s environment.

His temperament — intellectual hubris distilled — makes him blown about by gusts of enthusiasm for intellectual fads, from 1990s futurism to “Lean Six Sigma” today. On election eve 1994, he said a disturbed South Carolina mother drowning her children “vividly reminds” Americans “how sick the society is getting, and how much we need to change things. … The only way you get change is to vote Republican.” Compare this grotesque opportunism — tarted up as sociology — with his devious recasting of it in aletter to the Nov. 18, 1994, Wall Street Journal. And remember his recent swoon over the theory that “Kenyan, anti-colonial” thinking explains Barack Obama.

Gingrich, who would have made a marvelous Marxist, believes everything is related to everything else and only he understands how. Conservatism, in contrast, is both cause and effect of modesty about understanding society’s complexities, controlling its trajectory and improving upon its spontaneous order. Conservatism inoculates against the hubristic volatility that Gingrich exemplifies and Genesis deplores: “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.”