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Gingrich gains momentum heading into Florida

By Shawna Shepherd, CNN Political Producer
updated 1:43 AM EST, Sun January 22, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Newt Gingrich: Supporters 'captured the heart of his campaign'
  • Gingrich earns double-digit win in S.C. primary, upsets frontrunner Mitt Romney
  • Gingrich: 'If we unleash the American people, we can rebuild the America that we love'

(CNN) -- Newt Gingrich told supporters chanting, "USA, USA," at his South Carolina primary victory party on Saturday night that they had captured the heart of his campaign.

"The fact is we want to run not a Republican campaign -- we want to run an American campaign," he said.

Gingrich swept the Palmetto State by wooing many voters with two strong debate performances, but the former House speaker told the 500-strong crowd that it wasn't his debating skills that propelled him to victory but his message.

"People actually misunderstand what's going on. It's not that I am a good debater. It is that I know how to articulate the deepest-felt values of the American people," he said.

He described what he thought led to standing ovations during the Myrtle Beach and Charleston debates this week.

"So many people who are so concerned about jobs, about medical costs, about the everyday parts of life and who feel that the elites in Washington and New York have no understanding, no care, no concern, no reliability, and in fact do not represent them at all," he said.

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"The American people feel that they have elites who have been trying for half a century to force us to quit being American and become some kind of other system.".

Gingrich announced a new campaign slogan as he prepared to compete in Florida against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Gingrich: S.C. 'decided to be with us in changing Washington'

"We believe as our new sign -- which just got made today points out -- that if we unleash the American people, we can rebuild the America that we love," he said. The candidate who's been counted out of this race at least a couple times might be the one who disrupts Mitt Romney's hopes of clinching the Republican nomination.

In less than two weeks, Gingrich surged from a double-digit deficit to a double-digit win in South Carolina -- the state in which the winner has gone on to capture the Republican presidential nomination since 1980.

Eleven days after Gingrich had finished fifth in the New Hampshire primary he referred to himself as the "comeback grandfather." At a press availability in Manchester on January 8 he said, "I've been the tortoise for the whole campaign."

As he was making a slow play for the nomination, Gingrich was laying the groundwork for a South Carolina victory, casting Romney as the "Massachusetts moderate" and himself the conservative standard-bearer who could beat Barack Obama.

"You're not going to beat a billion dollar machine with dishonesty, with somebody who is inarticulate or confused or doesn't quite know where they stand," Gingrich said in Rock Hill January 11.

At a campaign stop in Duncan on January 13, he warned against voting for his conservative competitors Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, who dropped out on Thursday.

"If we end up splitting the conservative vote, we're going to stumble into nominating somebody that 95% of the people in this room are going to be very uncomfortable with."

The debates have kept the Gingrich campaign on life support when it was down and fueled his steady surge, and in the case of South Carolina, his debate performances this week clinched a critical primary win that gives the candidate the needed juice to move onto Florida.

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