Newt Gingrich speaks Thursday during a campaign stop at the Low Country… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )
Reporting from Charleston, S.C. —
As Newt Gingrich tries to ride a late surge in the polls to a victory is this state's Republican presidential primary, his final day of campaigning on Friday did not go as planned.
Gingrich was to be the keynote speaker at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in the morning, but he canceled, reportedly because only a few dozen people showed up.
Among the attendees were officials with rival Mitt Romney's campaign, who came to scope out the man who has become a potential obstacle in the former Massachusetts governor's path to the GOP nomination.
Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu warned that a Gingrich presidency would be "dangerous."
"We're not picking a new member of the high school debating team, we're picking a president of the United States. Just because somebody makes good quips at a podium doesn't mean they know how to be president," Sununu said. "This is a guy who is a megalomaniac, whose own leadership kicked him out as Speaker because they got tired of the megalomania."
Former Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana, a Gingrich supporter, countered by touting what he said was the former House Speaker's record of cutting taxes and balancing the federal budget, and said Gingrich would weather the attacks by his opponents.
"He's a tough guy, he's Rocky Balboa, he's the Eveready bunny. You're not going to knock him down, you're not going to wear him out. He's going to keep fighting. He's got the intelligence and the vision to put it all together," Livingston said. "That's why I think he'll do well tomorrow."
Romney leads in recent polls, but Gingrich's following has grown in recent days. As the race has tightened, the battle between Romney, Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has grown heated, a tension that was on full display during a debate Thursday night.
Gingrich has also had to deal with the Thursday release of an interview with his second wife, who told ABC News that Gingrich asked her to agree to an "open marriage" when she learned her then-husband was having an affair with Callista Bisek, his current wife.
The official reason given for Gingrich canceling his morning speech was so that he could spend more time visiting children at a pediatric hospital, though he did not go there during the time he was scheduled to be at the conference. When Gingrich arrived at the University of South Carolina Children's Hospital, he seemed unusually subdued.
Asked how he did in Thursday night's debate, Gingrich replied, "OK."
Then he toured the facility, and his wife read her book, "Sweet Land of Liberty" to five young patients and dozens of reporters. The event was billed as a town hall, but Gingrich did not speak.
An afternoon telephone town hall with South Carolina voters was postponed until three hours after the polls open on Saturday.
Gingrich is scheduled to hold a town hall and news conference in Orangeburg in the afternoon and end the day with a book signing aboard the Yorktown, a retired Navy aircraft carrier that is now a museum near Mount Pleasant.