Newt Gingrich has won Saturday’s South Carolina GOP presidential primary, marking a stunning turnaround for a candidate who finished fourth in Iowa and New Hampshire and whose campaign had been left for dead — again — by observers just weeks ago.
With about 70% of polling places reporting, Gingrich had 40% of the vote, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney getting 27% and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum getting 18%. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas had 13%. Based on early returns and exit polls, CNN projected Gingrich the winner.
“Thank you South Carolina!” Gingrich’s campaign posted to Twitter after polls closed at 7 p.m. ET, adding a link to his campaign donation website. “Help me deliver the knockout punch in Florida.”
This is the first time since 1980 that three different GOP candidates won nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The winner of the South Carolina primary, which this year is the third contest on the primary and caucus calendar, has gone on to win the Republican nomination in every election since 1980.