South Carolina primary today
South Carolina will be the third state this year to choose between the Republican candidates for the November presidential election.
There are four candidates still in the race, although recent events suggest that only two are serious contenders; Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
Mitt Romney was, until this week, by far the strongest contender. He was way up in the polls in South Carolina and Florida (takes place on 31st January) and had won the first two contests in Ohio and New Hampshire. A bad week has knocked back his chances of sealing the contest this month; final results in Iowa show that he came second to Rick Santorum and was not the winner, a poor televised debate got him in to trouble over his tax returns and Rick Perry withdrawing from the contest and supporting Newt Gingrich has seen a surge in support for Gingrich.
Newt Gingrich, until this week, had seemed to be in a distant second place. A strong campaign in South Carolina, reasonable success in a televised debate and support from Rick Perry has seen him receive a late surge in the polls.
A poll by Clemson University conducted in the last few days put Newt Gingrich six percentage points ahead of Mitt Romney. The results are Newt Gingrich 32%, Mitt Romney 26%, Ron Paul 11% and Rick Santorum 9%.
Rick Santorum is the next likely candidate to drop out of the race.
The South Carolina Republican primary is open to all voters, with polling stations open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There are 2,804,231 voters.