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LIVE BLOG: South Carolina Republican Primary Results

Tracy Bloom, Paige Brettingen |
January 21, 2012 | 1:53 p.m. PST

Deputy Editor, Executive Producer

Voting is underway in South Carolina in what is the most important Republican presidential primary yet. A new poll released today shows Newt Gingrich with a commanding 14 point lead over Mitt Romney. However, severe weather and a tornado watch could play a role in voter turnout.

The four remaining candidates are former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Other candidates on the ballot, but who have already dropped out of the race: Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (who is now running as an Independent).

Here's the latest from the Palmetto State:

Read more about Newt Gingrich's victory here.

4:20 p.m. PT: Reaction about Newt Gingrich's victory in South Carolina is varied:

[View the story "Twitter News About Newt:" on Storify]

4:15 p.m. PT: The New York Times has a snapshot of the voters who headed to the polls to vote in today's primary, as well as the keys to Gingrich's victory:

Late deciders were the key to Gingrich's victory. Half of Mr. Gingrich's supporters were voters who had decided just within the past few days. Overall, it was an electorate that broke especially late, over half decided within the past few days this year compared to only a third who did so in 2008.
His strong debate performances this week fueled this last-minute support that shot him to the top spot. While Romney had held the pride of place as the candidate most likely to beat Obama in both Iowa and New Hampshire, Gingrich managed to fight him to a draw in South Carolina on that issue.
More than six in ten voters were evangelicals in today's vote, and Gingrich easily won these voters, beating each of the other contenders by nearly two-to-one. A solid majority of all primary voters also said they came to the polls looking for a candidate who shares their religious views. While Santorum performed at this best among this group, Gingrich still won them.

4:10 p.m. PT: Headline on Huffington Post home page right now: "MITT NEWT-ERED" Ouch!

4:10 p.m. PT: If results hold, this will be the first time in history that three different candidates won the Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.

4:05 p.m PT: CNN says just 3% of 18-24 year olds voted in the South Carolina primary.

4:05 p.m. PT: Early Exit Poll Results from CNN: Gingrich- 38%, Romney- 29%, Santorum- 17%, Paul- 16%

4:00 p.m. PT: MSNBC calls the race for Newt Gingrich.

3:55pm. PT: CNN: 66% of the voters support the tea party and 64% are born-again evangelicals

3:55 p.m. PT: CNN reports: Romney has "big plans for next week" when he heads to Florida.

3:50 p.m. PT: Here's a look at what's being said on Twitter, via Storify:

[View the story "Which GOP Will Take The SC?" on Storify]

3:45 p.m. PT: Real Clear Politics reporter Scott Conroy has a picture of the Romney "victory" party a little more than half an hour before the polls were set to close. He tweeted: "Scene at Romney party in Columbia 35 min before polls close.  Scene at Romney party in Columbia 35 min before polls close." 

3:40 p.m. PT: Looks like Romney campaign prepping for a loss. CNN contributor and Daily Beast columnist John Avlon tweeted: "Atmosphere at Romney HQ is like someone died right before a big party but the caterers still arrived."

3:30 p.m. PT: South Carolina polls close in 30 minutes.

3:30 p.m. PT: CNN reporting that 88% of voters said the debates played a huge roll in their decision

3:25 p.m. PT: The attacks on Romney's record at Bain Capital were not particularly effective in swaying opinion, the exit polls found. New York Times Poll tweeted: "Early exits: 2/3 of primary voters say they had a positive view of Romney's backgrd in investing and restructuring cost."

3:15 p.m. PT: A tweet from CNN: "Early exit polls show SC voters say most important quality they looked for was a candidate who can ultimately beat Obama. #CNNelections." 45% said that was the most important quality.

3:20 p.m. PT: MSNBC is reporting that more than half (53%) of South Carolina voters decided who to vote for in the past few days. Just 46% of voters decided before that.

3:10 p.m. PT: Santorum's Headquarters are being called "The War Room" by his staff, according to CNN.  Tension is high as the polls begin to indicate that Santorum is sinking to third or fourth among the candidates.  Santorum has said he plans to continue to Florida regardless of the South Carolina results.

3:10 p.m. PT: Early exit poll results South Carolina voters are divided over concerns about "job growth versus government spending." The New York Times has more: "A majority of voters said cutting the budget deficit, even if that limits job growth, should be a higher priority for the next president. About 4 in 10 said creating jobs should be a higher priority for the next president, even it that meant a higher budget deficit."

3:05 p.m. PT: CNN's Peter Hamby tweeted: "Buzz: bad weather narrows margin a bit, but no one thinks Newt loses tonight. 5 point win is emerging CW right now."

3:00 p.m. PT: South Carolina polls are scheduled to close one hour from now.

RELATED CONTENT: Romney Braces For Defeat In South Carolina GOP Primary

Winner Of South Carolina Primary Suddenly In Doubt

Tornado Watch, Severe Weather May Impact South Carolina Primary Voter Turnout

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