EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
Republican presidential hopefuls, former senator Rick Santorum (L), former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (2nd-L), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (2nd-R) and Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R) participate in the CNN Southern Republican Leadership Conference Town Hall Debate in Charleston, South Carolina, January 19, 2012, in advance of this weekend's January 21, 2012 Republican presidential primary.
The Republican presidential primary race is getting more contentious by the minute. The four remaining candidates – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, newly-crowned Iowa winner Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul – faced one another onstage on Thursday night in a final showdown before the forthcoming South Carolina primary election.
The Charleston debate followed the announcements that Texas Governor Rick Perry was dropping out of the running and that Santorum actually won more votes than Romney in the Iowa caucus. According to polls, Gingrich experienced a surge of support in the Palmetto State going into the debate, so his performance was thus closely observed. This “first in the south” primary has traditionally determined which campaigns have what it takes to go the distance in the presidential race. With Perry now out, it remains to be seen who will renounce next.
How influential is South Carolina when it comes to weeding out weak presidential campaigns? How realistic are Gingrich’s chances of winning over Romney?
Bill Schneider, resident fellow at Third Way, a think tank in Washington; former political analyst for CNN and the Los Angeles Times