Gingrich win just energizes GOP race - DatelineCarolina

SC GOP Primary

GOP race just gets hotter as Gingrich wins S.C. primary

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Ron Paul's supporters poked fun at Newt Gingrich, who is married to his third wife. Ron Paul's supporters poked fun at Newt Gingrich, who is married to his third wife.
Mitt Romney waves to supporters at the fairground. Mitt Romney waves to supporters at the fairground.

By Caroline Riser
Michaela Mitchell

Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" belted through the speakers as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich supporters celebrated his victory in Saturday's South Carolina Republican primary.

The crowd revamped Queen's, "Another One Bites the Dust," singing, "Romney Bites the Dust," as they celebrated Gingrich's upset over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Gingrich triumphed with 40 percent of the votes.  Romney came in second with 27 percent; Rick Santorum, 17 percent; and Ron Paul; 13 percent.

 "It's not that I'm a good debater; it's that I articulate the heartfelt values of the people," Gingrich said.

Romney, appearing slightly disappointed but still hopeful as he began his concession speech, said, "This is a hard fight, but there's so much worth fighting for."

"I don't shrink from competition.  I embrace it.  I believe competition makes us all better," he said.   

The candidates now head to Florida for its Jan. 31 primary.

Gingrich supporter Bree Saum, who originally supported U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, both of whom have dropped out of the race, said Gingrich is the kind of leader this country needs.

 "He's been there, done that," Saum said. She decided to vote for Gingrich six weeks ago after reading, "Rediscovering God in America," Gingrich's novel about the role of religion in America's history.

While Gingrich's supporters rejoiced at the downtown Hilton, Romney's supporters gathered at the Moore Building at the S.C. State Fairgrounds. Waving American flags and listening to country music, the crowd remained energetic.

Alex Kemp, a political science student at the University of South Carolina and a volunteer for the Romney campaign, said repealing President Barack Obama's health care plan and protecting the free market make Romney a "great candidate."

Heidi Machalic of Irmo, who has been supporting Romney since 2007, was disappointed when she heard about Gingrich's victory.

"I felt that, as a state, we would have better sense," she said.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum held his party at The Citadel in Charleston, where he had received the Nathan Hale Patriot Award on Friday. 

The crowd passionately shouted, "We pick Rick!" as he took the stage to give his concession speech.

Citadel graduate and U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett joined Santorum on stage, along with Santorum's wife and six of his seven children.  Santorum congratulated Gingrich on his "amazing" win and thanked his wife and children, reinforcing his message that family is consistently most important to him.

Santorum had hoped to regain the momentum he had from leading Romney in the Iowa Caucus earlier this month.

"Let me assure you we will go to Florida and Arizona, and we're going to deliver them a message," he said.

At U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's celebration party at Columbia's Vista, college students mixed with middle-age supporters. "My first three wives support Ron Paul," was a popular sign referring to Gingrich, who is married to his third wife.

USC student Michael Hollis supports Paul's stance on foreign policy – for instance, Paul wants to reduce America's military involvement overseas – and his general libertarian values.

"If Paul doesn't win, I'm not sure if I'll vote Republican. I don't like Gingrich or Santorum, and it would take a lot of thinking for me to vote Romney," Hollis said.

Jim Hanks, 63, of Lexington said he would "do whatever Ron Paul asks me to do."  But Madeleine Atchley, 22, of Nashville said it is "Paul or nothing."

Paul told supporters the movement was continuing to grow and that his camp was looking toward Florida.

"It dawned on me when you win elections and win delegates, that's the way you promote a cause," Paul said.

Paul said he will continue promoting "peace and prosperity" as the race continues.

Former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and current GOP candidate for the newly formed 7th Congressional District said Gingrich "had a message that resonated with Republicans."

"Finally, someone's saying you got to do something and right the ship. We've got a $15 trillion debt we have to do something about," Bauer said.

S.C. Republican Chairman Chad Connelly said he felt the Gingrich surge all week and that he knew the results would happen the way they did.

"South Carolina has a 30-year track record for picking presidents, and we will stick by that until proven differently," Connelly said.

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