(Reuters) - Bruised, battered and defiant, Newt Gingrich limped out of Iowa after a fourth-place finish in the state's Republican presidential contest on Tuesday. But he is still alive.
Hit by plummeting poll numbers in recent days, Gingrich is likely now to hold on until the South Carolina primary on January 21 and hope for the backing of conservatives there.
His main rival, Mitt Romney, is expected to handily win the next vote, in New Hampshire on Tuesday, leaving South Carolina as the main battleground in the early balloting for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in the November election.
Gingrich, known for his feisty nature during his time in the House of Representatives, had vowed not to have a negative campaign in Iowa. But he lashed out at Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, blaming SuperPAC fundraising groups linked to Romney and libertarian Ron Paul for the negative TV ads that knocked him from atop the Iowa polls.
"Together I think we survived the biggest onslaught in the history of the Iowa primary," Gingrich said.
"We aren't going to go out and run nasty ads," Gingrich told supporters after it became clear he had won just 13 percent of the Iowa vote.
"But I do reserve the right to tell the truth. And if the truth seems negative, that may be more a comment on (Romney's) record than it is on politics," he said, vowing to strike back by challenging Romney's conservative credentials in the weeks ahead.
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I personally don't care who gets the republican nomination at this point. I was kinda hoping Newt would get it. But even if it's Romney, it's fine! I'd rather have a mormon in office than a muslim loving socialist. And I think most of America would agree with me on that.
2012 must be an anybody but Obama vote. Number 1 priority is get Obama out!