Newt Gingrich has turned the contest for the Republican presidential nomination on its head, with an easy victory over Mitt Romney in South Carolina.
The ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives had been behind in opinion polls with his colourful personal life in the spotlight. But strong performances in debates helped him win votes and the primary.
“The American people feel that they have elites who have been trying for a half century to force us to quit being American and become some kind of other system,” Gingrich told supporters. “People completely misunderstand what is going on ….It is not that I am a good debater. It is that I articulate the deepest felt values of the American people.”
With South Carolina’s winner traditionally going on to secure the Republican nomination, it is a bad result for Romney, the frontrunner so far. He had slipped in polls over his reluctance to release tax details and admission that he pays a much lower tax rate than many Americans, despite his vast wealth.
But he is not giving up.
“Tonight I want to congratulate, of course, the Speaker Gingrich and my fellow Republicans on a hard-fought campaign here in South Carolina,” he said as the results emerged. “We are now three contests into a long primary season. This is a hard fight because there is so much worth fighting for”.
He is not giving up. Nor is third-placed Rick Santorum who also wants the chance to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in November’s election. Ron Paul is now the only contender not to have won a round in the cross-country contest.
The next stop is Florida on January 31 – the largest state yet in a race that may still have surprises in store.