Results Via Townhall
Newt Gingrich resurrected his campaign Saturday with a convincing victory in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, leveraging strong debate performances and a handful of wrong turns by Mitt Romney to surge past the former frontrunner and reset the race now headed to Florida.
After claiming his first primary win, the former House speaker rallied supporters on the road to the next contest on Jan. 31. Gingrich, looking to convey the image of a general election candidate, focused his victory speech almost entirely on President Obama, unloading some of his toughest criticism to date on the White House incumbent.
“He makes Jimmy Carter look strong,” Gingrich quipped at the close of his speech.
Gingrich faces organizational challenges, but said he would rely on message to propel him forward. “We don’t have the kind of money at least one of the candidates has, but we do have ideas and we do have people.”
Gingrich locked up a decisive victory in the state. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Gingrich pulled in 41 percent of the vote, to Romney’s 27 percent. Rick Santorum finished in third with 17 percent, followed by Ron Paul with 13 percent. Herman Cain, who dropped out before the first contest, garnered 1 percent.
The leader board virtually ensures a drawn-out Republican race, a turnaround from just a week ago when Romney seemed poised to clinch the nomination in short order. While South Carolina has predicted the presidential candidate every year since 1980, the candidate in previous victories had won either Iowa or New Hampshire.
That was not the case now, as Santorum reflected.
“Three states, three winners. What a great country,” Santorum said, referencing his first place showing in Iowa and Romney’s victory in New Hampshire.
Romney, at his post-election rally in South Carolina, acknowledged that he sees a “long primary season” ahead and vowed to put up a stiff fight.
“I’ll keep fighting for every single vote. I will compete in every single state,” Romney said.
Gingrich surged to win South Carolina after what was arguably the most eventful week of the primary season, including. Rick Perry dropped out of the race Thursday, throwing his support behind Gingrich. The Iowa Republican Party dropped the surprise announcement that Santorum, and not Romney, had actually won the Iowa caucuses.
And Romney found himself repeatedly struggling to answer questions — pushed by the Gingrich campaign and echoed in the media — about his decision to not release his tax returns before April. Meanwhile, Gingrich was able to deflect questions about allegations from his second wife that he once sought an “open marriage.”
His scorching answer at Thursday’s debate to a question on the subject, which earned him a second standing ovation in one week, may even have helped improve his standing ahead of the South Carolina vote, as exit polling showed a plurality of women voters supported him over his rivals.
In the delegate battle, Fox News projected Gingrich will win at least 19 of South Carolina’s 25 delegates. That puts him in second place behind Romney in the overall race for the nearly 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
With a victory under his belt, Gingrich held back Saturday night on criticism of his opponents, instead commending them for their contributions to the debate. Rather, he unleashed a tirade of criticism on Obama, describing him again as the “most effective food-stamp president in American history” and excoriating him for his recent decision to deny a permit for the Canada-to-Texas Keystone pipeline.