Buoyed by his strong debate performance in Myrtle Beach, Newt Gingrich has called his rivals to drop out of the race because "consolidating into a Gingrich candidacy" would "virtually guarantee victory" in the South Carolina primary and stop Mitt Romney becoming the Republican nominee.
Making the case to a crowd of almost 200 in an art gallery in the old railroad junction town of Florence, South Carolina he said: "If you look at the polling, I’m the only conservative who realistically has a chance to be the nominee.
"So any vote for Santorum or Perry in effect is a vote to allow Romney to become the nominee. Because we’ve got to bring conservatives together in order to stop him."
Gingrich was speaking in Florence (which holds the distinction of equidistant between New York City and Miami) some two hours after Romney had held a sparsely-attended event in which barely 100 voters turned up - a sign that in this portion of the state at least of a lack of enthusiasm for the frontrunner.
Having predicted on Monday night that he would win South Carolina, where the latest poll has him trailing by 14 points, today he went a step further by declaring: "If we win on Saturday, I think I will be the nominee."