South Carolina Primary Winners and Losers

PHOTO: Republican presidential hopeful former Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledges his South Carolina Republican Primary win at election night headquarters January 21, 2012 in Columbia, South Carolina.
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

It is the state that's never been wrong. Since its inception in 1980, the South Carolina primary has chosen the eventual Republican nominee every year.

And based on the millions of ad dollars that the four remaining GOP candidates and their supporting Super PACs poured into the Palmetto state, they were extremely aware of how important it was to win in Saturday's South Carolina primary.

If history is any indication, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum should have had a leg up in the Palmetto state. No presidential candidate has ever won the South Carolina GOP primary without already having won in either Iowa or New Hampshire. Meaning Gingrich's upset victory was unprecedented in the state primary's 22-year history.

Despite historical precedence, Gingrich - who came in fourth in both Iowa and New Hampshire - took the top spot in South Carolina with 41 percent of the vote, beating Romney by 13 percentage points. Santorum finished third with 17 percent and Ron Paul came in fourth with 13 percent of the vote.

Here's a look back at the past winners and losers of the South Carolina Primary:

PHOTO: South Carolina Primary Winners
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Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speaks at a post-primary campaign rally January 19, 2008 in Charleston, South Carolina.
2008: John McCain and Barack Obama

In the hotly contested 2008 GOP primary race, John McCain squeaked by with a narrow win in South Carolina, so narrow, in fact, that he set a record for amassing the lowest percentage of votes out of any South Carolina primary winner. Only 33.2 percent of Republican voters cast their ballot for McCain. Mike Huckabee, who took first place in the Iowa caucus, came in a close second with 29.8 percent.

Leading up to the South Carolina primary on the Democratic side, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were neck-and-neck, with Obama having won in Iowa and Nevada, and Clinton riding her victory in New Hampshire. As the first state with a large African-American population to vote in the 2008 primary, South Carolina was vital to Obama, who ended up winning with 55 percent of the votes.

PHOTO: South Carolina Primary Winners
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US Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards of North Carolina acknowledges cheers from supporters following his victory in the South Carolina state primary 03 February 2004 in Columbia, SC.
2004: John Edwards

Sen. John Edwards achieved an upset win in South Carolina during the state's 2004 Democratic primary, breaking rival Sen. John Kerry's two-win streak in Iowa and New Hampshire. South Carolina would be one of only two states Edwards won before conceding the nomination to Kerry.

Kerry lost the close general election to incumbent Republican president George W. Bush.

PHOTO: South Carolina Primary Winners
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Republican Presedential hopeful and Texas Governor George W. Bush acknowledges supporters with his wife Laura at a post-primary party on 19 February, 2000 at the Columbia Sheraton convention center ballroom in Columbia, S.C.
2000: George W. Bush and Al Gore

The 2000 GOP primary in South Carolina had the highest turnout in history, with more than half a million Republican voters casting a ballot.

After losing badly to John McCain in New Hampshire, Texas Gov. George W. Bush desperately needed a win in South Carolina, something the Texan achieved mightily. Bush beat McCain by 12 percentage points and went on to win both the GOP nomination and the general election.

The Democratic contest was a knockout as well. With wins in Iowa and New Hampshire already under his belt, Vice President Al Gore crushed his opponent Bill Bradley, receiving 92 percent of the vote. Gore is the only non-incumbent presidential candidate in South Carolina primary history to have won in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

PHOTO: South Carolina Primary Winners
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Senator Bob Dole points to the crowd gathered at the State Fair Grounds in Columbia as he thanks them for his primary victory 02 March in South Carolina.
1996: Bob Dole

Kansas Sen. Bob Dole was the early favorite in the 1996 GOP primary, but after a narrow win in Iowa, Dole's momentum evaporated and he lost to political commentator Pat Buchanan in New Hampshire.

Two more losses in Arizona and Delaware made a win in South Carolina pivotal to the Dole campaign. His 15-point victory over Buchanan put Dole back on track to win the nomination. Dole lost the general election to incumbent President Bill Clinton.

PHOTO: South Carolina Primary Winners
Greg Gibson/AP Photo
Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Clinton shakes hands with supporters following a rally in Camden, S.C., on March 4, 1992.
1992: Bill Clinton

The early stages of the 1992 Democratic primary were almost as volatile as this year's GOP race. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin took an easy victory in his home state. Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas secured the top spot in New Hampshire, but only narrow edged Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

Clinton's second-place win was a major momentum-getter and propelled him on to a big victory in South Carolina, where he won 69 percent of the votes.

Clinton wrapped up the nomination on Super Tuesday and defeated incumbent president George H.W. Bush in the general election.

PHOTO: South Carolina Primary Winners
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Vice President George Bush holds up a t-shirt supporting his campaign on SuperTuesday March 3, 1988 in Houston, Texas.
1988: George Bush Sr. and Jesse Jackson

The second time was the charm for Vice President George Bush Sr., who won South Carolina's primary in 1988 after losing the same contest to Ronald Reagan in 1980. Bush promised to carry on the legacy of a very popular outgoing President Reagan if elected, and he defeated Michael Dukakis in the general election.

While Bush locked up the Republican primary early, the Democratic race drew out long past Super Tuesday. The Rev. Jesse Jackson triumphed in South Carolina but had a tough time expanding his support out of the South. He eventually lost the nomination to Dukakis.

PHOTO: Wouth Carolina Primary Winners
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images
Politician Jesse Jackson delivers a speech during his 1984 presidential campaign in Chicago, Illinois.
1984: Jesse Jackson

In his first bid for the White House, the Rev. Jesse Jackson won only two states: South Carolina and Louisiana. Jackson was the second African-American to run for president, and the first to win a state primary.

As a civil rights leader, Jackson capitalized on South Carolina's large African-American population and conservative Christian roots to secure a win, but eventually lost the nomination to former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Mondale was defeated in the general election by incumbent Ronald Reagan.

PHOTO: South Carolina Primary Winners
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Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy wave during the Republican convention July, 1980 in Detroit, MI.
1980: Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan emerged on the Republican presidential scene with all the fanfare expected of a former Hollywood actor. As the early favorite to win the GOP nomination, Reagan all but skipped the Iowa caucus, where he lost to George Bush Sr.

With Bush and former Texas Gov. John Connolly engaged in a nasty battle of leaked memos and vote-buying accusations, Reagan won an easy victory in South Carolina's first primary. Reagan went on to handily beat the unpopular incumbent President Jimmy Carter.

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