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Commentary: GOP race certain to be long, vicious

Following Newt Gingrich’s victory in the South Carolina primary Saturday, the race for the Republican nomination for president could not be more dramatic if Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum were replaced with the cast of “Jersey Shore.”

Though many political commentators started this race with a clear notion of who would come away with the nod, Gingrich’s double-digit victory in South Carolina, despite a strong lead for Romney in polls prior to the primary, leaves only one thing assured for this race: It will be long and it will only get more vicious.

While many wrote Gingrich off following fourth-place finishes in New Hampshire and Iowa — which a vote recount proved to be a victory for Santorum — strong debate performances from the former Speaker of the House despite (or perhaps because of) allegations from his ex-wife that he asked her for an open marriage have thrust Gingrich back into the spotlight and proven him to be a strong opponent for Romney.

And a Gingrich victory might be the best thing that could have happened for Republicans.

Though the turbulent race for Republicans seemed to indicate all-around indecision on voters’ parts early on, a slew of drop-outs have whittled the crowded field down to just four notable candidates and has seemingly channeled a majority of support to Gingrich and Romney.

What started as a battle royale in which media attention was given to the one who screamed the loudest has finally begun to explore ideological differences within the party — liberals and moderates within the Republican party backing Romney, and the conservative wing going to Gingrich.

Even as the race becomes more negative, now is the chance for the GOP to decide what kind of party it will be in the general election. Both Gingrich and Romney have potential to take the White House in November, the only question left is what kind of president the Republicans are prepared to vote for.

But given the unpredictable nature of the race thus far, I might yet find some use for my “Snooki 4 Prez in 2012″ bumper stickers.

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