COLUMBIA, the United States, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Republican voters in South Carolina have thrown open the party's presidential nomination race by giving former House speaker Newt Gingrich a resounding victory in the party's first primary in the South on Saturday.
Gingrich's win with some 40 percent of the votes was the third by a different candidate from the first three primaries, the first time this has happened in recent history. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary, and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum won Iowa's caucuses.
That means more uncertainty at least until the next primary in Florida, and possibly beyond that.
The victory for Gingrich also implies trouble for Romney, a multi-millionaire who struggled in debates leading up to the primary over whether he should release his tax returns.
Thomas Mann, a U.S. politics expert, said Romney, in his own halting and confusing way, had "effectively released his tax returns by acknowledging that his effective tax rate was around 15 percent."
Romney made the acknowledgement in the past week during a campaign event, after being pressed during the debate to release his tax returns.
The spotlight on this matter is not only a problem for Romney in the primaries, but could also hurt him in the presidential election should he win the Republican nomination.
"This will further fuel debates about fairness and inequality, and reinforce the decision of Democrats to push for higher rates on the very wealthy," Mann said.
The question is likely to be brought up again in coming days, as GOP candidates gather in Florida for debates and rallies.
But with a massive fundraising advantage and a solid organization in Florida, Romney is well-placed to win in the sunshine state, whose size and population make it almost impossible to run a retail-politics campaign, forcing candidates to rely on big ad buys in the 10 television markets across the state.
The Gingrich campaign is using social media to narrow the gap in fundraising, and is hoping to raise some 10 million dollars in the next 10 days. But Mann remains skeptical.
Gingrich "is deeply flawed as a candidate and office-holder," Mann said, noting he had "no serious campaign organization in place to compete effectively with Romney."