Washington, Jan 22: Newt Gingrich has scored a crushing double-digit victory over Mitt Romney in the South Carolina Republican Presidential primary, stripping him of his front-runner status and breaking wide open the race to choose a challenger to incumbent Barack Obama in November polls.
With 99 per cent of the precincts counted, 68-year-old Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, had secured 41 per cent of the votes compared to 27 per cent for Romney.
Given that for decades the South Carolina Republican primary winner had ended up bagging the party's presidential nomination, the result for yesterday's primary came as a big boost for Gingrich.
At the same time it was a big setback to 64-year-old Romney, former Massachusetts Governor who was leading the State till a week before and was looking forward to seal his nomination with a win there.
While it would take time for official results to be declared, Romney, seeing the writing on the wall, conceded defeat and congratulated Gingrich for his victory.
"Tonight I want to congratulate, of course, Speaker Gingrich and my fellow Republicans in a hard-fought campaign in South Carolina. We're now three contests into a long primary season. This is a hard fight because there's so much worth fighting for," Romney said at a post-election rally.
"Now this race is getting to be even more interesting," said Romney, who won the New Hampshire primary and narrowly lost Iowa Caucus to Rick Santorum, ex-Pennsylvania Senator.
In his victory speech, Gingrich called Obama a "weak" President and was highly critical of his record on the foreign policy front. "President Obama is a President so weak that he makes Jimmy Carter look strong."