Republican Race Wide Open

After three contests with three different winners, it’s wide open in the race to choose a Republican nominee.

And in the process, the campaign of Newt Gingrich has gained new life.

Newt Gingrich resurrected his campaign Saturday with a stunning victory in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, leveraging strong debate performances and a handful of wrong turns for Mitt Romney to surge past the former frontrunner and reset the race which is now headed for Florida.

After claiming his first primary win, the former House speaker rallied supporters on the road to the next contest on Jan. 31. Gingrich, looking to convey the image of a general election candidate, focused his victory speech almost entirely on President Obama, unloading some of his toughest criticism to date on the White House incumbent.

“He makes Jimmy Carter look strong,” Gingrich quipped at the close of his speech.

Gingrich faces organizational challenges going forward, but he said Saturday: “We don’t have the kind of money at least one of the candidates has, but we do have ideas and we do have people.”

Gingrich locked up a decisive victory in the state. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Gingrich pulled in 41 percent of the vote, to Romney’s 27 percent.

Rick Santorum finished in third with 17 percent, followed by Ron Paul with 13 percent.

What a difference a week makes in the world of politics.

The leader board virtually ensures a drawn-out Republican race, a turnaround from just a week ago when Romney seemed poised to clinch the nomination in short order.

Romney, at his post-election rally in South Carolina, acknowledged that he sees a “long primary season” ahead and vowed to put up a stiff fight.

“I’ll keep fighting for every single vote. I will compete in every single state,” Romney said.

Gingrich surged to win South Carolina after what was arguably the most eventful week of the primary season. Rick Perry dropped out of the race Thursday, throwing his support behind Gingrich. The Iowa Republican Party dropped the surprise announcement that Santorum, and not Romney, had actually won the Iowa caucuses. And Romney found himself repeatedly struggling to answer questions — pushed by the Gingrich campaign and echoed in the media — about why he’s not releasing his tax returns before April. Meanwhile, Gingrich was able to deflect questions about allegations from his second wife that he once sought an “open marriage.”

His scorching answer at Thursday’s debate to a question on the subject may have even helped improve his standing ahead of the South Carolina vote.

While the Republican establishment may have wanted things to be wrapped up by now, tonight’s results are great for the American people who should be the one’s choosing the Republican nominee.

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