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W&L Mock Convention Picks Gingrich in S.C. Primary

The student political research team for Washington and Lee University’s 2012 Mock Republican Convention has given a narrow nod to Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney in predicting the winner of tomorrow’s South Carolina Republican primary.

Writing on the Mock Convention’s blog last night, Connor Danielowski, a senior from Charleston, S.C., and chair of the Mock Convention’s South Carolina delegation, and Zach Wilkes, a senior from Farmersville, La., and the political chair, joined with members of the political team in concluding: “We feel that Gingrich will capitalize on the momentum gained from his attack on the ‘liberal media’ and will pull out a narrow victory over national frontrunner Mitt Romney in Saturday’s primary.”

The student research team also gives a very slight edge to Rick Santorum over Ron Paul for third place.

In making the prediction, they cautioned that “virtually anything could happen once polls open tomorrow, and there are still a number of viable scenarios in which Romney pulls out a win in South Carolina tomorrow.”

“No matter who wins tomorrow, Gingrich will finish much better than initially expected and will pose a much more serious threat to the Romney campaign going forward,” they write. “Though polling data indicates that the race is too close to call, Gingrich’s late surge has continued despite (or perhaps because of) a renewed focus on his prior marital problems.”

The prediction is based on the team’s analysis of polling trends, data from past election cycles, and discussions with political experts in South Carolina and across the South.

“When the polls close tomorrow, Mitt Romney will still be the front runner for the Republican nomination, but the race will be fundamentally changed,” write Danielowski and Wilkes. “Newt Gingrich will have momentum going into the Florida primary, and the conservative, anti-Romney vote will have a standard bearer around whom to rally. If Gingrich has learned from his past troubles and can run a disciplined campaign over the next few weeks, he will be a force to be reckoned with at least through Super Tuesday on March 6th.

“Yet, even with momentum at his back, Gingrich will have a very difficult time overcoming Romney in Florida, especially if Santorum can maintain a viable presence in this race. If, however, Santorum stumbles in the coming weeks and the race becomes binary, Romney could once again face an extremely difficult primary battle.”

The 2012 Mock Republican Convention will be Feb. 9-11 on the W&L campus. The convention nominates its presidential candidate on Saturday, Feb. 11.

The student researchers have been at work throughout the year preparing for their ultimate prediction. Last week they correctly predicted an Iowa victory for Romney.

Since its inception in 1908, W&L’s convention has been considered the most realistic exercise and the most accurate, with 19 correct predictions in 25 attempts. Until they incorrectly chose Hillary Clinton to head the Democratic ticket in 2008, the W&L student conventioneers had been right on eight consecutive predictions.

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