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Would Mitt Romney survive a Newt Gingrich win in South Carolina?

Newt Gingrich is trailing Mitt Romney in the polls now. But what might happen if Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina?

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With very brief notes on his podium, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, speaks at the Christ Central Community Center in Winnsboro, S.C., Wednesday, Jan., 18, 2012.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

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Let’s pretend for a moment that Newt Gingrich might win the South Carolina primary.

He probably won’t. Recent polls have shown Mitt Romney’s lead in the state has actually been widening, to double-digits.

Still, it’s volatile - and, polls notwithstanding, Romney seems to have entered a bit of a rough patch. Last week brought a slew of questions about his record at Bain. This week it’s the brouhaha over his taxes, putting new attention on just how rich he really is (hint: $375,000 is essentially spare change for him) and raising questions about his investments and just how much money he has given to the Mormon Church. Most important, there’s yet another debate coming up - Thursday night - and Gingrich has shown himself incredibly adept at using these forums to his advantage.   

So let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that all this weighs Romney down enough to allow Gingrich to squeak out a win in South Carolina. What would that mean for the race?

Obviously, it would be a real scare for Team Romney. South Carolina is usually the state where the eventual nominee wraps things up - not where they hit a bump in the road. Keep in mind, there’s also growing chatter that Romney may not have won Iowa after all. The Hawkeye state’s official certification is expected to be completed by the end of the week. If the Iowa GOP announces that Rick Santorum was in fact the winner, then Romney’s record could go in one weekend from an expected 3-0 to 1-2, which would take some of the shine off the Romney inevitability narrative.

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