Nightly News   |  January 21, 2012

Election day theater in the South

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney battled nearly toe-to-toe for last-minute votes in the first-in-the-South primary. NBC’s Ron Mott reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> is adding to the drama in south carolina where a half hour from now the polls will close in today's primary. 14 counties there have been under tornado watches at some point during the day. and weather-related power outages have affected the voting machines and turnout in some places. today's republican south carolina face-off caps one of the wildest weeks yet in the race for president with newt gingrich making a late run at mitt romney , who until recently had enjoyed a comfortable lead there. the importance of this primary is underscored by the fact that since 1980 the republican winner from there has gone on to clinch the nomination. at the end of the night we could for the first time see three different winners of first three contests. iowa, new hampshire and south carolina . our political team is in place to cover this big night . and we'll begin at gingrich headquarters in columbia with ron mott. good evening.

>> lester, good evening to you. as bad as the weather has been, it hasn't dampened the enthusiasm and excitement. people are fired up and what better way to court the votes than with a good old fashioned breck fast and all the trimmings. hamgate was quintessential red, white and blue theater. first, mitt romney .

>> biggest crowd we had.

>> newt gingrich both rallied the vote in greenville within a half hour of each other. the former speaker loose after a late surge feasted on the moment in the crowd.

>> what's mitt? i thought he was going to stay and have a little debate here this morning.

>> today's menu was about dishing up the most appetizing images. candidates swarmed by screaming is up pores and joanna price's says gingrich 's debate performance sold it for her.

>> hopefully once he'll gets in the white house he'll enforce everything he said.

>> romney's business background is what this voter says this economy needs.

>> are we better off than four years ago? we're not.

>> and why they battle toe to toe and face to face , rick santorum certified today as the winner of the iowa caucuses worked to maximize his turnout. smaller believed good news for gingrich . as for the dreary weather he said bring it on. up.

>> i thought rain is a good i think this, bad weather is a good thing because our folks are passionate and they're going to come out and vote.

>> ron paul scheduled no campaign eventbes today. opting instead to meet with supporters at his watch party headquarters tonight. at for the turnout it has been described as everything from light to heavy depending on where you are around the