COLUMBIA — A record number of voters turned out for the South Carolina primary Saturday and delivered former House Speaker Newt Gingrich a blowout win that may restart the entire race.
Gingrich surged during the final week of the contest, overcoming a double-digit deficit to trounce former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney. Gingrich earned 40 percent of the vote and won all but three counties.
"It is very humbling and very sobering to have so many people who so deeply want their country to get back on the right track," Gingrich said in his victory speech from Columbia.
Gingrich's debate performances separated him from the field, especially when he attacked the media on Thursday night in Charleston.
"It’s not that I am a good debater," he said. "It’s that I articulate the deepest felt values of the American people."
"This race is going to be even more interesting," Romney said during his concession speech from Columbia. "This is a hard fight because there's so much worth fighting for."
More than 595,000 people voted during the primary, which represents a new record. The previous high was 573,101 votes during the 2000 primary.
"It speaks volumes to how interested our party is in defeating Barack Obama," SCGOP Executive Director Matt Moore said of the turnout. "We've had record turnout at events, record spending on ads, record numbers of visits from candidates, so I’m not surprised that people slogged through the rain to get to the polls."
Sen. Rick Santorum finished third in the Palmetto State with 17 percent support and Rep. Ron Paul finished fourth with 13 percent.
"Three states, three winners, what a great country," Santorum said in his speech from The Citadel in Charleston. "Let me assure you that we will go to Florida and Nevada and Colorado and Maine and everywhere else."
Paul, who improved his performance in South Carolina when compared to 2008, told his followers in Columbia that he was in for the long haul.
"This is the beginning of a long hard slog," Paul said. "The message of liberty is being received by more people every single day."
For a map showing county-level voting results tonight, check out this fantastic map from Google's election headquarters.