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Sarah Palin Trumps Nikki Haley, Chris Christie In South Carolina Primary Influence Game

First Posted: 01/21/2012 8:08 pm Updated: 01/21/2012 9:41 pm

As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich surged to victory in Saturday's South Carolina primary, there was another clear winner in the Palmetto State: Sarah Palin.

During an appearance Tuesday on Fox News' "Hannity," the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate said that if she were a South Carolinian, she would "vote for Newt." Although it was not a formal endorsement for Gingrich, and she made no campaign stops in support of the former speaker, it may have been an important stamp of approval in a state where 65 percent of primary voters support the Tea Party movement.

Less successful were former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's high-profile endorsers, whose influence was not enough to sway South Carolina voters. Gov. Nikki Haley, who swept into office on a wave of Tea Party support, reportedly shocked her base by backing Romney last month. Exit poll data showed that Tea Party supporters overwhelmingly supported Gingrich in Saturday's primary.

According to Politico reporter Reid Epstein, Haley was not in attendance at Romney's headquarters on Saturday night.

Another Romney supporter, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has also been a staple at Romney events. Christie, who endorsed Romney in October, was also apparently unable to capture the attention of the state's Tea Party voters. The governor's relatively moderate record has led some to question his ability to court his party's more conservative base should he decide to pursue a presidential candidacy of his own in the future.

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Filed by Mollie Reilly  |