|South Carolina Republican primary, 2012|
See below for updates. Gingrich has been declared the winner, Romney will take second, Santorum third and Paul fourth once all is said and done.
The third contest of the 2012 nomination process takes place today with South Carolinians heading to the polls. For weeks Mitt Romney had held onto a lead, however, late-breaking polls show Newt Gingrich making a serious insurgency to the top spot meaning this could be a tight race come Saturday evening. Depending on the exit polling, it could be later in the evening until we have a declared winner. I'd be hopeful that by 9pm ET we have an idea of how things might shake out.
Report from Fox News:
Newt Gingrich, on the verge of resurrecting his campaign, is aiming for his first primary win in Saturday's South Carolina contest as he puts Mitt Romney on the defensive over his tax records and fends off questions about his personal life.
The former House speaker enters the election with rising poll numbers and the publicity from two strong debate performances at his back.
Romney, who had been leading in South Carolina following his decisive win in the New Hampshire primary, acknowledged Friday that the race is now "neck and neck."
"I'm pretty confident, cautiously optimistic," Romney said, adding that his campaign will "go the distance."
But South Carolina, a state with a history of determining political fortunes, could be a turning point. Voters could reaffirm Romney as the race's frontrunner, putting him in solid position going into Florida, or launch Gingrich into position as his top challenger and tee up a protracted battle for delegates.
Just one week ago, Romney seemed poised to go three-for-three in the first three contests, a historic feat. Then Gingrich's numbers started to surge following Monday's debate. Then the Iowa GOP announced that new certified results show Rick Santorum, not Romney, actually came out on top in that state's caucuses — though the results are incomplete. Then Rick Perry bowed out, endorsing Gingrich.
Romney's campaign was handed a last-minute gift when ABC News announced it had an interview with Gingrich's second wife, Marianne, who claimed Gingrich once sought an "open marriage."
But Gingrich used the debate Thursday to shut the story down. He denied the claim, and to the audience's delight turned the tables on the moderator for asking him about the allegation.
Truth be told, the opening question in Thursday night's debate might be the best thing that ever happened to Gingrich if he ends up winning South Carolina.
Newt Gingrich has been declared the winner in South Carolina. Mitt Romney will likely take second and Ron Paul will battle with Rick Santorum over third place.
Looks like it will finish as follows: 1) Gingrich, 2) Romney, 3) Santorum and 4) Paul according to sources. Vote totals will update live above. So much for my above prediction that we might have to wait until 9pm to declare a winner. Clearly Gingrich's numbers must have been strong enough to call it right at 7pm ET.