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South Carolina Primary Winners And Losers

First Posted: 01/21/2012 8:28 pm   Updated: 01/21/2012 8:59 pm

Voters in South Carolina weathered the elements on Saturday and headed to the polls to make their choice for GOP presidential candidate. They picked former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich by a wide margin.

That would have been a surprise a few weeks ago, especially consider Gingrich's rather lackluster performances in both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. But following some strong debate performances -- and testy exchanges with moderators -- Gingrich experienced a last-minute surge to the top of the pack in South Carolina. Furthermore, he did it with the strong support of conservative Tea Party and evangelical voters, who appeared happy to overlook an interview given by Gingrich's second ex-wife in which she claimed that he had asked her for an "open marriage."

The loss in South Carolina is a tough pill for Mitt Romney to swallow, who, on the heels of a victory in New Hampshire was thought to have been well on his way toward becoming the presumptive Republican nominee. He began campaigning in the Palmetto State with the support of its governor, Nikki Haley. But a few days before the South Carolina contest, Romney's first-place finish in Iowa was reversed, following a certification of lost votes which gave the win to Rick Santorum. Soon thereafter, Romney saw a dip in his own popularity, coming amid increasing scrutiny of his personal finances, sparked primarily by evasive comments about whether he would release his tax returns.

Now with Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum each winning a primary -- and Ron Paul continuing to nip at their heels, apparently with no plans of leaving the race -- the GOP primary has hit a full reset. The candidates and the media that covers them now head to Florida to compete in its Jan. 31 primary, which is now more important than ever.

The primary season now stands to remain competitive for longer than previously expected, which will give the nation, and its president, more time to view the increasingly hostile spectacle.

Take a look below at the winners and losers of the South Carolina primary, and vote for who you think came out on top:

WINNER: Newt Gingrich
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Gingrich's resurgence and eventual victory was unexpected, to say the least. As of a week ago, he was polling around the middle of the pack and few expected his candidacy to take off in South Carolina. He experienced a small bump in the middle of the week, when Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race and threw his support behind the former speaker of the House. But that spark was nearly doused when his ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News claiming that he'd asked her for an open marriage while engaging in an affair with Callista Bisek, a Hill staffer who has since married Gingrich and taken his last name.

South Carolina voters seemed largely unfazed by this development, however, and Gingrich managed to use the interview to his advantage during the week when he was asked to answer a question about it at a GOP presidential debate.
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Filed by Nick Wing  |