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Gingrich wins U.S. Republicans' South Carolina primary

(Xinhua)

13:23, January 22, 2012

Newt Gingrich (C), former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker, speaks during a victory party in Columbia, South Carolina, the United States, on Jan. 21, 2012. Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina Republican primary earlier Saturday.(Xinhua/Fang Zhe)

COLUMBIA, the United States, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Saturday won a sounding victory in his party's South Carolina primary, bagging about 40 percent of the vote.
With about 99 percent of the state's 2,130 precincts reporting before midnight, Gingrich leads former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by a 12-point margin.

After the two, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum got about 17 percent of the vote, while Texas Congressman Ron Paul secured about 13 percent.

Although Gingrich won by a big margin, the primary campaign is by no means over. Given the candidates' reaction to the results, the field has not even narrowed as they all pledged to fight on.

In his victory speech, Gingrich said his campaign is moving on to Florida and beyond. Florida is holding its primary on Jan. 31.

Gingrich added that he is going to "beat big money" in Florida, a swipe at Romney, the candidate with most campaign funds on hand.

Romney, who spoke ahead of Gingrich, congratulated the former House speaker while also taking a swipe at him, although not by name.

"We cannot defeat the president with a candidate who has joined that very assault on free enterprise," he said. "When my opponents attack success and free enterprise...they're attacking you."

Romney came to South Carolina with huge advantage. Polls showed he was well over Gingrich and other candidates.

However, that edge eroded away as Romney dodged his tax release problem and performed less than stellar in the two debates in the lead-up to the primary.

Gingrich, however, is buoyed by robust performances in the debates despite bad press about his previous marriage life. He has enjoyed a surge in the past week.

With the three races so far producing three different winners, the GOP candidates are moving their battle to Florida on Monday, a very different battleground from Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the three "retail politics" states.

With its size and population, Florida could be a real test for the candidates' fundraising abilities and organization.

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