Republican race thrown wide open by Newt win

By Ian Wishart

The race for the Republican presidential nomination has taken on an intriguing new vibe with today’s wipeout of Mitt Romney by a resurgent Newt Gingrich.

Despite his social liberalism, Gingrich managed to pocket the votes of South Carolina evangelicals, to add to his support from Democrats and women, enough to give him a double digit victory lead over boxed in Mitt.

Even more remarkably, Newt’s win came despite ex-wife Marianne accusing him of wanting an ‘open’ marriage.

One explanation could be that evangelicals were not that keen on Mormon Romney becoming the next President. It’s also likely the endorsement of Newt by conservative Chuck Norris, as a man who could “outwit” Obama, saw South Carlolinians throw their weight behind Romney’s leading rival in the State.

Rick Santorum, widely favoured by conservatives, came a respectable third place ahead of tax reformist Ron Paul.

The result means three different candidates have won each of the first three primaries: Santorum taking Iowa by just 25 votes ahead of Romney, who himself won New Hampshire handsomely, and now Gingrich in the South.

All eyes turn to Florida, where Rick Santorum is now expected to make a real run.