Lessons delivered to the media by South Carolina voters

The media weren't on the Republican primary ballot Saturday, but South Carolina voters gave them a good whupping anyway.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was about to lose the primary, until Thursday when he speared the media in a memorable and well-deserved answer to a question about his second ex-wife's allegations about his desire for an open marriage. Denying the charge, he attacked the CNN questioner, John King, and the media in general for obsessing with the story.

The audience ate it up, giving Gingrich the kind of spontaneous and profound acclaim that Barack Obama got when he, still an obscure Illinois state senator, delivered his famous keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. You have to see Gingrich's response (widely available on YouTube) to plumb the depth of the audience's loathing of the media.

Overnight — literally — he surged. The Washington Post-ABC News poll had former Massachusetts Gov.Mitt Romney ahead of Gingrich by 20 percentage points just a little more than a week before the balloting. On Saturday, Gingrich creamed Romney by more than 12 points. It might have been the most dramatic and quick turnaround in modern American political history.

Read more of this column on the Chicago Tribune op-ed page.

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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