Gingrich wins South Carolina, blows Republican presidential race wide open

David Bartholomew

It was quite the fanfare in South Carolina on Saturday night when Republican voters took to the polling stations to cast their vote for their party’s presidential nominee.

However, unlike New Hampshire, former Mass. Gov. and Republican front-runner Mitt Romney’s campaign did not get the boost it needed in South Carolina and instead saw a loss to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.

Gingrich, by the numbers, took 40 percent of the vote and received all 23 delegates toward the nomination from the Palmetto State, a state that no Republican presidential nominee has ever lost. In turn, Romney finished second with 29 percent of the vote, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum finished third with 17 percent and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, finished fourth with 13 percent.

With this win, Gingrich appears to have blown the presidential nomination race wide open and is putting major pressure on Romney. Romney suffered a sluggish final week of campaigning due to televised attack ads focused on his time spent at Bain Capital, a confirmed loss to Santorum in the Iowa caucuses, concerns about his Mormon faith, strong debate performances from Gingrich and the dropping out of Texas Gov. Rick Perry from the race, who endorsed Gingrich in the process.

“The centerpiece of this campaign is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky,” Gingrich said in his victory speech on Saturday night, referring to the community organizer whom he feels influenced Barack Obama. “It is very humbling and very sobering to have so many people who so deeply want their country to get back on the right track.”

It was only a little more than a week ago that Romney was projected by many pundits to have all but locked up the nomination and was at the top of the polls in South Carolina, but Saturday night appears to have questioned the Romney bandwagon and, in his speech, he confirmed this.

“This race is getting to be even more interesting,” Romney said. “We’re now three contests into a long primary season. This is a hard fight because there is so much worth fighting for.”

However, despite his loss, Romney did show a level of optimism to his supporters that he will keep on fighting and, in the end, will be the eventual nominee.

“Our campaign has fought very hard here in South Carolina, and in the coming weeks and months, I’ll keep fighting for every single vote. I will compete in every single state,” Romney said. “We’re going to win this nomination, and we’re going to defeat President Obama in November.”

The next big step for the remaining four Republican candidates will be the Florida Primary on Jan. 31, where it is expected that there will be another scramble for voters among the candidates. As it stands, Gingrich holds 25 pledged delegates, Romney has 17, Paul has 10 and Santorum is in fourth with seven; 1,144 are needed to win the Republican nomination at the national convention in August.