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Shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m. EST Saturday, most of the major networks declared formers Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich the winner of the South Carolina primary.
Gingrich, who came in fourth in Iowa and New Hampshire, had enough of a lead that ABC, NBC and Fox News called it early on into the return reporting process.
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Just a few weeks ago, Gingrich was down double digits against frontrunner Mitt Romney. But as polls showed Romney losing ground in recent days, with voters expressing concern over his record at Bain Capital and his reluctance to release his tax filings, Gingrich seized the moment.
“Thank you South Carolina!” Gingrich wrote on Twitter. “Help me deliver the knockout punch in Florida.”
Though NBC didn’t break into programming, Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow were on hand for MSNBC, declaring Gingrich the winner of the Palmetto State.
Fox News extended their live coverage an extra hour, going until 10 p.m. EST (their primary programming was originally scheduled to last form 6 p.m. to 9p.m.)
CBS News did not make the call until close to 7:30 p.m.
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A CNN analysis of Gingrich’s South Carolina supporters showed that Republicans facing financial struggles were most likely to support the former House Speaker over multi-billionare Romney.
CNN also had an interview with candidate Rick Santorum, who is expected to finish third with Ron Paul in fourth place in South Carolina. “There’s a momentum for Newt right now and he capitalized on it,” Santorum said during his interview with CNN. “I give him a lot of credit.
“Three days ago, there was an inevitability in this race. Now it’s game on.”
Romney, who came in second place in S.C. gave a speech shortly after 8 p.m., which was covered by the cable networks CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and CSPAN.
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“This race is getting to be even more interesting,” Romney said in his concession speech Saturday evening. “I want to congratulate Speaker Gingrich. We are now three contests into a long primary season. We still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.”
In terms of print coverage, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Associated Press all published reports dubbing Gingrich as the primary’s victor shortly after 7 p.m.
Earlier in the day, Michael Reagan, son of President Ronald Reagan, a radio host and frequent TV pundit announced his support for Gingrich. Actor Chuck Norris also backed the candidate the day before the primary.
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