Mitt Romney was likely never as much of a lock as the mainstream media seems to believe, but Saturday's South Carolina primary results still came as a surprise.
Newt Gingrich rose from the political ashes for the second time with two strong debate performances this week and pulled off an unlikely win in the Palmetto State.
With 40 percent of the vote to Mitt's 27, and nearly all precincts reporting, Newt won big and turned the fluid Republican presidential race on its head once again.
Only a week ago, Romney seemed likely to win all three of the initial contests, a scenario that would have put him on a relatively clear path to the nomination.
But with Thursday’s announcement that Rick Santorum actually won Iowa, followed by today's results, Romney is now a front-runner who has lost two of three.
The result marked a swift, extraordinary turnaround in Gingrich’s fortunes, after he finished well out of the top three in both Iowa and New Hampshire.So maligned was his candidacy that Newt himself had conceded his campaign might be over for good by tonight if he failed to turn in a strong performance.
He did turn in such a performance, and as such, the quest to represent the GOP against President Barack Obama in November is quite far from over.
This marks the first time that three different Republican candidates have won the first trio of contests in what has been an unpredictable race from the start.
Since 1980, every South Carolina GOP primary winner has gone on to win the nomination, but whether Gingrich can continue that streak is far from certain.
Romney has by far the most formidable financial resources and organization, giving him a big edge Florida, which holds its primary January 31, and beyond.
Santorum finished third and Ron Paul fourth in South Carolina. The candidates square off in a debate once again Monday night in Tampa. Stay tuned ...