Mitt Romney lost badly in South Carolina, winning only three counties: Charleston, Beaufort, and Richland (Columbia). These are slightly more Catholic, slightly richer, rather more educated, and much more military than most South Carolina counties. Apparently, some military people still remember Newt Gingrich’s role in downsizing defense spending as Speaker of the House in the 1990s.
Newt’s slick half hour indictment of Bain Capital started the snowball, but most South Carolinian voters probably never saw it. They heard about it, but it was Mitt’s combative debate performance and response to incessant anti-Gingrich advertising that made him the preferred conservative alternative. That is, it was Romney’s hysterical response to being attacked that sank him. Romney's defensive over-reaction to being challenged sinks him every time. After all, it was no surprise that evangelicals were looking for an alternative.
While Newt cut Romney’s support 10 percentage points in ten days, he also took five percentage points from Santorum, indicating that his combativeness raised public confidence in him compared to Santorum.
Florida, Romney thinks, is a different ballgame. The size and urban nature of the state make it inaccessible to retail politics and give a big advantage to budget. However, Gingrich has already grabbed the lead there and Romney will have to win with the local powers, and organize some electoral trickery to win there. People in the South are fond of telling Yankees that “Florida is not the South.” In reality, Florida is the South, only more so.
Even Romney's reversal of historic unwillingness to release taxes now looks not principled but duplicitous. Why not release all the years if you are going to release any? It greatly reinforces the idea that he is hiding something, such as some years he has probably paid no tax because of astute management of share losses. That would lead people to be outraged with him. The only way he could have finessed this was to hold to his position that he won't release his taxes ever, that's his view of the matter, and he sticking to it.