As I write this with 85% of the results reported the result in South Carolina is (final result in red):
- Newt Gingrich 40.4% 40.4%
- Mitt Romney 27.1% 27.8%
- Rick Santorum 17.4% 17.0%
- Ron Paul 13.4% 13.0%
That is as much of an owning of a state result as Romney managed in New Hampshire. In fact it is more so. But then like New Hampshire the winner came from a neighbouring state.
So where does that leave the Republican party nomination race as they head to Florida.
First up Gingrich has the momentum, but as was pointed out in the coverage I heard he is not on every state's ballot at the moment. He says that if he is nominated he will challenge Obama to seven three hour dabates. He is talking like a winner after tonight, he is talking about taking on Obama not his opponents.
Romney took a bit of a pasting here. Before his supporters knew the cameras were live you saw the frowns. He outspent Gingrich with $2.4m of ad buy to $612,000. So although he is getting his message out there one thing is lacking. The exit polls revealed that he had lost his lead in who do see most likely to beat Obama in November. That honour now goes to Gingrich, possibly because of the way he ended up swinging from the start of the debate on Thursday, when a week ago that was Romney.
Romney also came out swinging at Gingrich saying that as he'd never run a state or a business. The counter punch came when Newt said he was the only speaker in the supporters' lifetimes that had supervised four consecutive balanced budgets. The fight is on.
Rick Santorum has done well enough to stay in the race. His speech was one that would allow him to be an asset to whomever happens to win this race. Indeed he opened in praise of his colleague in the House of Representatives. As I said earlier if he didn't put up a good position here he may as well pack up and head home. As it is he has done enough to keep on with the fight. He will be waiting to see if Romney and Gingrich manage to destroy each other in the crossfire they are aiming at each other, he may well be the man to pick up the pieces and be the compromise candidate if things get so nasty as to make both of them a political liability.
As for Ron Paul, this was Christian country and his liberal message may not have gone done well with some of these southerners. But he carried on and on and on in his speech with his economic vision. However, he is the only man left in the race who has not yet won a statewide poll. He said he will carry on, there are some caucusing states coming up where he has done well. He will still have picked up delegates here and as he said in his speech, before giggling his giggle, winning delegates is the name of the game. Wow! How insightful.
So all four are left in, nobody was knocked out yet and this race is far from over and may well get even nastier in the weeks ahead. If it does it could still stir things up even more. But tonight Romney was owned by Gingrich. At point I tweeted that the Romney gap was closing....but only between him and Santorum as Gingrich edged further ahead as the results mounted up.