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South Carolina scores record primary turnout

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South Carolina’s Republican voters set a new primary turnout record Saturday when more than 600,000 of them went to the polls, shattering the previous mark set in 2000.

With 13 precincts still uncounted Sunday morning, 601,166 votes already were recorded, topping 2000’s turnout of 537,101 and well ahead of 2008’s 445,499 voters. Earlier in the week, officials had projected a moderate turnout about equivalent to the 2008 primary.

And the vote totals for the individual candidates were just as intriguing. Saturday’s winner, Newt Gingrich, collected 243,153, and second-place finisher Mitt Romney won 167,280. Both of them exceeded 2008 winner John McCain’s total.

And that also means Mr. Romney did far better than his own 2008 performance here, when he won just 68,142 votes en route to a fourth-place finish.

Saturday’s results will be certified by the State Election Commission on Friday, though given Mr. Gingrich’s giant margin, there’s little chance of another Iowa situation, where Mr. Romney was declared winner of the caucuses only to have it revoked last week when the final canvas showed Rick Santorum ahead.

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