Tonight we'll find out whether Newt Gingrich's "kamikaze" campaign of revenge against Mitt Romney was suicide or just regular old winning. Gingrich's Occupy Wall Street-esque attacks on Romney were first seen as bitter and futile, but all week polls showed he was steadily gaining on Romney in South Carolina, and on Saturday The New York Times' Nate Silver forecasted Gingrich will win the primary tonight by about 10 percentage points. Even after Gingrich's ex-wife was interviewed on ABC -- and after fake CNN alerts falsely told Republican voters in the state that Gingrich had forced her to get an abortion -- Gingrich's numbers continued to climb. Early exit polls show that while a quarter of voters thought Gingrich's ran the most unfair campaign, more (30 percent) thought Romney's wasn't fair. We'll be liveblogging as the results come in here.
10:03p.m.: It's possible Gingrich will win all of South Carolina's delegates -- he has 19 so far, with six left to be decided. He has a 14-point lead over Romney with 95 percent of precincts reporting. He crushed Romney in all kinds of demographics -- women, Tea Partiers, evangelicals, everyone over 30, everyone making less than $200,000 a year. Earlier this week, one pollster said it was possible Romney would win Florida with as much as 50 percent. That seems less likely now. The Sunshine State votes in 10 days.
9:50p.m.: "President Obama is a president so weak that he makes Jimmy Carter look strong," Gingrich says. He promises to be the paycheck president, not the food stamp president. With 88 percent of precincts reporting, Gingrich has 40.4 percent to Romney's 27 percent.
9:40p.m.: Some guy in the crowd shouts a compliment to Callista, and that finally gets a real smile out of Gingrich. He says his wife would make a great first lady.
9:37p.m.: "With your help, we're now moving on to Florida and beyond," Gingrich says, to huge cheers. Yet he looks like he's in the waiting room for the dentist!
9:33p.m.: A lot of concession speech-style frowns in Newt's victory speech:
9:29p.m.: Newt's speech is oddly subdued, even though the crowd is fired up. He hasn't even uttered, in pro-wrestling terms, a cheap pop -- "Thank you South Carolina!" or something.
9:28p.m.: Newt finally arrives. Look at all the phones!
9:24p.m.: Santorum was glitter bombed on the rope line tonight, Lindsey Boerma tweets.
9:22p.m.: It is unclear why Gingrich is waiting so long to give his victory speech. His fans can't wait to hear from him after what Fox's Brett Baier is calling a "blowout."
9:10p.m.: With 65 percent of precincts reporting, Gingrich is ahead 40.6 percent to Romney's 26.4 percent.
8:41p.m.: Multiple members of the Santorum family are wearing the sweater vest tonight:
8:37p.m.: The primary's best spin so far:
- "The country is coming our way. The momentum is growing." -- Ron Paul, in his concession speech after finishing behind Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum, as the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza notes.
- "I think we're going to lose tonight, we could lose big… But I think it's been a terrible week for Gingrich and a great week for us." -- Anonymous Romney aide to BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins.
- "The media continues to be baffled by our campaign’s resurgence, and they highlight their ignorance by calling it 'Newtmentum.'" -- Gingrich in an email to supporters Friday night, the Daily Caller's Alex Pappas reports.
8:29p.m.: With 30 percent of precincts reporting, Gingrich is ahead 41 percent to Romney's 26 percent.
8:25p.m.: Rep. Joe "You Lie" Wilson is attending Gingrich's victory party, Slate's Dave Weigel tweets.
8:15p.m.: In his concession speech, Paul marvels that you can promote a cause by winning elections.
8:05p.m.: Romney: "Those who pick up the weapons of the left today will find them turned against them tomorrow."
8:01p.m.: Gingrich HQ watches Romney concede. We're only three contests in to a long primary fight, he says. He tries to tie Gingrich to Obama, saying neither of them have led a business or a state, and both of them "attack free enterprise."
7:58p.m.: Romney arrives to give his concession speech to cheers. "You should hear 'em when we win," he says.
7:56p.m.: Gingrich got the same share of the evangelical vote that Mike Huckabee did in 2008, Slate's John Dickerson notes. But Huckabee was a preacher, and Gingrich… Gingrich has sought the counseling of preachers.
7:50p.m.: On Fox News, Charles Krauthammer and Brit Hume are having the same conversation heard in the Atlantic Wire cubes Friday: Is Gingrich Lazarus? Or by dying twice, and being reanimated twice, did he out-Lazarus Lazarus? "Yeah but to be brought back to life, that means you have to have died," Hume says. "Well, we all do," Krauthammer replies. This primary is provoking deep thoughts, clearly.
7:49p.m.: Romney supporters put on a brave face. They're doing the wave:
7:43p.m.: Joy at Gingrich HQ:
(Photo via Reuters.)
7:41p.m.: Politico reports that Romney will give a speech Tuesday ahead of Obama's State of the Union address. And "it's also likely to take on Newt Gingrich." And he'll be interviewed on Fox News Sunday -- only a few hours ago, one of his aides was scheduled to appear.
7:37p.m.: Fox projects Santorum will get third, putting Paul in fourth.
7:36p.m.: Fox reports Gingrich did well in the evangelical northwestern part of the state, and in the northern part of the coastline. In the affluent coastal areas, Romney didn't perform as well as expected, Fox says.
7:29p.m.: Gingrich updates his donation page.
Ron Paul popularized the "money bomb," of course.
7:23p.m.: ABC News' Shushannah Walshe posts this photo of the Santorum party:
7:21p.m.: 64 percent of voters said the debates were important to their vote, CNN reports. Almost half voted for Gingrich. And 87 percent said they were "a factor." Earlier this week, Romney wouldn't commit to the next debate (the 18th!) on Monday, but now he's in. Small possibility he'll spent a bit of tomorrow practicing.
7:14p.m.: More from CNN's exit polls: Gingrich won all age groups but those under 30, which Ron Paul won. Gingrich won all education levels but those with post-grad degrees, which Romney won. Gingrich won all income groups except those making more than $200,000 a year, which Romney won (these are his people). Gingrich won conservatives, those neutral toward or supporting the Tea Party, evangelicals, and people who decided anytime in the last month.
7:10p.m.: CNN exit polls show Gingrich won women! He got 36 percent of the female vote, while Romney got 30 percent. In New Hampshire, Romney's campaign worked hard to target women, airing lots of ads showing him as a happy family man.
7:07p.m.: NBC News calls it for Gingrich, too. A margin of victory by high single digits or low double digits, Chuck Todd says.
7:04p.m.: Despite all the controversy over that 28-minute movie attacking Romney's Bain career released by the pro-Gingrich superPAC Winning Our Future, Gingrich was actually far outspent in South Carolina. Combining campaign spending and PAC spending on ads, Romney outspent Gingrich 2 to 1.
7:02p.m: Fox declares Newt the winner.
7:00p.m.: Polls close! CNN reports exit polls show Romney with 38 percent, Romney with 29 percent, Santorum with 17 percent, and Paul with 15 percent.
6:51p.m.: Tagg Romney, the candidates oldest son, posted this photo today, tweeting, "Nothing like the glamorous life on the road." This appears to be an officially-sanctioned bit of photographic evidence that Romney is really a totally regular guy.
6:48p.m.: The most important thing in considering which candidate to pick was whether he could beat Obama, exit polls show. Great news for Romney, right? And yet those people went for Gingrich, 49 percent to 41 percent, the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes says.
6:46p.m.: Real Clear Politics' Scott Conroy posts this sad little photo of the Romney party in Columbia, South Carolina, with half an hour of voting to go:
6:40p.m.: Politico's Mike Allen pointed to the ugly racial politics in South Carolina's (pretty recent) past. (Shock, disbelief, anger, rage – any of these words could have been used to describe the reaction of most white Carolinians to [Brown vs. Board of Education]," a Southern historian says.) The moment that brought Gingrich's campaign back to life in South Carolina (which you can see on the dramatic graph below) was when he scolded moderator Juan Williams when Williams asked whether it was belittling to black people for Gingrich to suggest they were on food stamps because they had no work ethic. Gingrich said he was just telling uncomfortable truths, and got a standing ovation. And yet, it's complicated. The state elected the first black Republican congressman in the South since Reconstruction last fall. And the biggest black biker rally in the country happens in South Carolina every Memorial Day.
From Talking Points Memo.