It looks like Newt Gingrich is about to have his best day on the campaign trail...
...and also his worst.
It's rare to get so many big stories all at once. It's hard to say how it will shake out. Here are a few possibilities:
1) Gingrich is right to say that his marital problems are old news with voters, and the endorsements of his former rival and the 100 TEA Party figures push him over the top in SC. As the new consensus TEA Party candidate, he goes on to challenge Romney with the solid backing of the more conservative wing of voters.
2) Republican voters don't like people who screw around with their marriages, meaning that today's new allegations sink Gingrich. Herman Cain shakes his head in sad sympathy as Gingrich is destroyed by the allegations.
(As to which: Why is the headline that he asked for "an open marriage"? The arrangement is hardly unheard of, especially among the rich and powerful; surely if he had honestly approached his wife with his feelings, and accepted her firm "no," we would take this as a minor sin -- or, these days, even just a quirk -- brought on by a robust nature. The problems facing Gingrich are that he got around to asking only after he'd already begun enjoying an 'open marriage'; and that, rather than accepting "no," he divorced his second wife for his third.)
There are three sub-cases:
2a) Gingrich's fall, just as conservative sentiment had lined up behind him, collapses conservative morale and allows Romney to walk to the nomination.
2b) Gingrich's falling numbers causes him to bow out of the race, endorsing Romney as a way to salvage what he can for his political future with the Republican establishment. While many of his supporters will never accept Romney, enough follow his lead to end the nomination contest.
2c) Conservatives swap their allegiance to the last non-Romney in the race, Rick Santorum, who was just announced to have actually won Iowa after all. Only three states having voted so far, there remains a real race for the nomination.
So, the first breaking point is whether we get scenario (1) or one of the sub-cases of (2). We'll know that pretty soon. If it's (1), Santorum -- who seems the best of the remaining candidates to me -- probably has no chance of success. If it's (2), and Gingrich endorses Romney, Santorum also probably cannot overcome the combined weight at this point. If it's (2) and Gingrich does not endorse Romney, we'll see Romney win anyway unless there is a quick and decisive shift to Santorum. Even then, he'll be under significant disadvantages of money and establishment support; but perhaps he can make a fight of it there.
Sadly, none of that is in Santorum's hands -- as they say in the NFL, at this point he does not control his own fate.