Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks at a barbeque rally in Waterloo, South Carolina on January 19, 2012. South Carolina will hold it's primary on Saturday, January 21. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo
CHARLESTON, S.C., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who won Saturday's Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, said he represents Americans' "deepest-felt values."
"People completely misunderstand what's going on. It's not that I'm a good debater. It's that I articulate the deepest-felt values of the American people," Gingrich told supporters during his victory speech.
Gingrich took 40 percent of the votes in the first-in-the-South primary, with former Massachusetts Gov. Romney a distant second at 28 percent.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was third with 17 percent and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas fourth with 13 percent. Both pledged to remain in the race.
Gingrich said President Obama gets his support from "people who don't like the classical America," calling Obama the "most effective food-stamp president in history."
"This is the most important election of our lifetime. If Barack Obama can get re-elected after this disaster, just think how radical he would be in a second term. …
"We don't have the kind of money that at least one of the candidates has, but we do have ideas, and we do have people," Gingrich said in a dig at one-time front-runner Romney, who won New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary Jan 10.
"And we proved here in South Carolina that people power with the right ideas beats big money, and with your help, we're going to prove it again in Florida," Gingrich concluded.
Romney earlier acknowledged Gingrich's South Carolina victory but compared him to President Obama and said Gingrich would lose the general election if he gets the Republican nomination.
"President Obama has no experience running a business and no experience running a state. Our party can't be led to victory by someone who also has never run a business and never run a state," Romney said.
"Our president has divided the nation, engaged in class warfare and attacked the free-enterprise system that has made America the economic envy of the world. We cannot defeat the president with a candidate who has joined that very assault on free enterprise," he said, adding, "Those who pick up the weapons of the left today will them turned against us tomorrow."
Romney's fortunes had faded in the Palmetto State in recent days, with news his initial razor-thin win in the Iowa caucuses is now considered a tie with Santorum and Gingrich making headway in South Carolina by painting Romney as a "Massachusetts moderate."
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, called on South Carolina voters to choose Gingrich as the conservative alternative to Romney and keep the primary contest alive.
The campaign now moves to Florida, where voters have been casting early ballots in advance of the Jan. 31 primary.