MELBOURNE, Fla. -- Republican Presidential Primary candidate Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary with a double digit lead over Mitt Romney. Gingrich took 40% of the vote, Romney 27%, Rick Santorum 17%, and Ron Paul 13% with 97% of the South Carolina precincts reporting,
The South Carolina win is a game changer for the GOP Primary in Florida. During the entire month of December 2011, Gingrich held a double digit lead over Romney in Florida. After Romney's win in New Hampshire and tie with Santorum in Iowa, the poll numbers changed and Romney gained a double digit lead over Gingrich in Florida.
If Florida Republican voters favor the perceived front runner as it appears from the polling data, then Gingrich's win could bring him back to a double digit lead over Romney. Given that only 10 days exist between the South Carolina and Florida primaries, polling data could have a significant time lag as to the true rise or fall of the candidates' polling numbers going into the January 31st Florida primary day.
Florida is a large and populous state. As a result, the Florida primary will be the most grueling and expensive campaign that the candidates have encountered to date. This will favor Mitt Romney and Ron Paul who have the best existing campaign organizations and money to handle Florida.
Florida will probably be the end of the road for the Santorum presidential campaign. He was unable to fully capitalize on his Iowa win because Romney was mistakenly named the winner of that state. Without a second place win in South Carolina, Santorum will be hard pressed to be able to raise the much needed money for a Florida campaign.
The Gingrich camp now has to scramble to translate their South Carolina win into huge donor support within the next ten days - a very difficult feat to accomplish in such a short amount of time.