There is now polling indicating a possible Newt Gingrich surge after Monday night's debate - A Rasmussen tracking survey has him just three points behind Mitt Romney. Notably, Rick Santorum may need to start wearing a lifebelt rather than a sweater vest - he appears to be sinking fast.
But the surest sign that the Romney campaign considers Gingrich the main threat here in South Carolina was a conference call just now in which top surrogates for the GOP frontrunner unloaded on the former House Speaker. It was quickly followed by web ad featuring Talent slamming Gingrich as an "Unreliable Leader" (also the title of the conference call).
The charges against Gingrich were delivered by ex-Senator Jim Talent and Representative Susan Molinari, who both served under him as House Speaker, and were pretty personal (though they didn't go there over Gingrich's three wives and marital infidelitites).
Talent said: "He's been running as a reliable conservative leader who can represent our movement and our party. And he's not that. Because he's not reliable. Yes, he can say exciting things. He also says things which undermine the conservative movement and he says it in outrageous and destructive ways."
He highlighted Gingrich's derisive comments about the Paul Ryan budget and his 2006 opposition to the Iraq surge as instances of his departing from conservative orthodoxy, saying that Ryan "got a taste of what we lived with in the 1990s" when House members were always "going home and having to clean up after our Speaker".