Shortly after polls closed in South Carolina at 7 p.m. tonight, NBC and Fox called Newt Gingrich the winner.  CNN held off, even while citing exit polls suggesting a final 38%-29% win for Gingrich.  Various polls found that most made up their minds in recent days and found debates the key.  The tide started turning with Gingrich’s attack on Juan Williams and "food stamp" smears.  Voters in exit polls today  also said Gingrich had better chance of beating Obama than Romney.

Santorum got about 18% and easily topped Paul for third.  With 97% in, the faux Colbert-Cain ticket getting about 1.1%, which tops recent dropouts Perry and Huntsman.

Gingrich now favored in Florida, which votes in 10 days (although many absentee votes in and probably help Romney).  First debate is Monday.  Gingrich on "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

Howard Fineman of Huff Post talked to former GOP leader Michael Steele who rolled out the usual "we may be heading for a brokered convention" baloney.  We hear that every few years and it never happens–though if would be fun to watch Ron Paul as power broker.

Here are some of my comments at Twitter as the media coverage picked up, in chronological order:

–Juan for the road: Well, this won’t be first time candidate has won a primary or election by mocking black folks. Won’t be last.

–GOP analyst on CNN: Gingrich has more lives than Rasputin. Carville: Yeah, but Rasputin would get more votes in the general election.

–Chris Matthews: "Only way Romney can beat Gingrich now is to catch up to him in hatred of Obama…and moving ever further to the right."  Of course Matthews then calls for Obama to "move to center" to pick up independents.

–So who can bash blacks the hardest now? No GOP backlash–until general election.

–What a laff: CNN finds 42% of family value evangelicals back Newt "Cheated on My Wife for Six Years" Gingrich.  Newt to celebrate tonight by attending "key party."

–Steve Schmidt on MSNBC says even Fox poll shows Newt with 27% favorable and 56% unfavorable rating nationally.  But anyone laughing or writing Newt off in race against Obama should not forget the other meaning of "race."

–Romney speaks to crowd about 8 p.m.  Concedes but calls it "great night."  But amazingly devotes most of speech to hitting Obama — forgetting he is in tough race now against.  Then finally draws distinction with Newt–charging he is coming out against "free enterprise" and has never run a business or a state.

–Gingrich in speech claims he’s not a greater debater but just voices (racist?) views of American people.  Gingrich says media elites "…have been trying for half century to force us to quit being American and become some other kind of system."

Greg Mitchell’s "The Campaign of the Century" — on the hugely influential Upton Sinclair race for governor of California in 1934 on an end poverty platform, sparking the birth of the modern political campaign — has just been re-issued, and other books here.