Many thought the South Carolina primary might settle the nomination in the Republican presidential race. But a series of unexpected events have changed the dynamics.
First, a recount of the Iowa caucus results handed former Senator Rick Santorum a victory by erasing Mitt Romney's eight-vote lead. While not a game changer, it is a psychological boost to Santorum as he goes in to South Carolina.
"It is more likely that Newt wins South Carolina and that's going to set up some very interesting contests further down the road "
- Liz Mair, fomer online communications director at Republican National Committee
On Thursday, Texas Govenor Rick Perry quit the race and endorsed Newt Gingrich. Meanwhile, Gingrich himself is facing new challenges as his former wife accused him of asking for an "open marriage."
The second candidate debate in four days saw just four contenders on stage. It featured sharp clashes over who has the temperament, character and know-how to lead the party into a general election.
So what happens to the Republican nomination going forward into South Carolina and beyond?
Inside Story US 2012, with presenter Anand Naidoo, discusses with Liz Mair, a former online communications director at the Republican National Committee who also advised the Perry 2012 campaign; Soren Dayton, a former staffer on the McCain campaign in 2008, who is now with New Media Strategies, a consulting firm; and David Mercer, who has worked on five presidential campaigns, most recently Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2008.
Polls before the South Carolina primary
- Most polls released on Thursday show Newt Gingrich overtaking Mitt Romney in South Carolina
- Gingrich has 33% support among likely voters, according to conservative polling outlet Rasmussen
- Romney's support has fallen to 31%
- 15% of likely voters back Ron Paul - who has held steady
- Support for Rick Santorum has dropped to 11%
- Rick Perry withdrew from Republican presidential race on Thursday
Source: Al Jazeera