Gingrich wins key vote in S Carolina

Gingrich wins key vote in S Carolina

SOUTH CAROLINA - Agence France-Presse
Gingrich wins key vote in S Carolina

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (L) and his wife Callista Gingrich (R) celebrate after he was declared the winner in South Carolina, yesterday. AFP photo

Republican White House hopeful Newt Gingrich walloped rival and longtime frontrunner Mitt Romney in South Carolina’s primary, dramatically reshaping the topsy-turvy race.

The former House speaker, repeatedly declared politically dead over the past year, surged Jan. 21 to a shock victory in the battle to become the party’s standard-bearer against Democratic President Barack Obama in Nov. 6 elections. With 100 percent of the precincts counted, Gingrich had captured 40.4 percent of the vote, compared to 27.9 percent for Romney.

Gingrich triumphantly cast his insurgent win here as a blow delivered by Americans “who feel that the elites in Washington and New York have no understanding, no care, no concern, no reliability and in fact do not represent them at all.” The result destroyed the aura of invincibility that had cloaked Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and had made him the man to beat in a race that now moves to Florida for its primary on Jan. 31. “We need to build on this victory by going to Florida. I need your help,” Gingrich told cheering supporters.

South Carolina marked Gingrich’s first triumph after Christian conservative former senator Rick Santorum squeaked out a victory in Iowa and Romney romped home in New Hampshire, dividing up the electoral spoils and bragging rights. After a tussle for third place in South Carolina, Santorum was at 17 percent with libertarian congressman Ron Paul on 13 percent.

Gingrich’s win rekindled doubts about whether the relatively moderate Romney, the favorite among the party’s establishment, can rally its conservative core which views him with suspicion.

And it struck a weighty symbolic blow: No Republican since 1980 has captured the party’s nomination without first winning this southern bastion. Romney’s defeat in the southern state turns what he hoped would be a sprint to the nomination into a marathon, where his rivals must somehow overcome his more sophisticated, well-oiled operation.

United States, US, USA, Republicans, Democrats, presidency,