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Newt Gingrich to South Carolina: You’re my (and America’s) only hope

Chris Moody, Yahoo News
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Newt Gingrich speaks to the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. (AP)

COLUMBIA, S.C.--In a nutshell, here's Newt Gingrich's pitch to South Carolina this week, in four easy steps:

1. If you don't elect Gingrich on Saturday, he will lose the Republican presidential nomination.

2. If Gingrich loses the nomination, Mitt Romney will win it.

3. If Romney wins the nomination, he will lose to President Barack Obama in November.

4. If the Republican nominee loses in November, America, as we know it, is basically over.

(No pressure!)

Speaking to a group of business leaders here Tuesday, Gingrich said that South Carolina would be the key--the only key--to keeping his electoral chances alive in 2012. If he loses, he's out.

"Your support in the next four days can change history," Gingrich said at a forum sponsored by the state Chamber of Commerce. "If I win the primary Saturday night, I will be the nominee. I think it's literally that simple. And if I don't win the primary Saturday, we will probably nominate a moderate and odds are fairly high that he will lose to Obama."

Gingrich is probably half-right. South Carolina does represent Gingrich's final sliver of hope for his long and at times tumultuous campaign. After he placed a disappointing fourth place in Iowa and fifth place in New Hampshire, Gingrich needs a strong showing here if he hopes to realistically move on to the next Republican contests in Florida and Nevada. Whether success in South Carolina automatically represents victory nationally, however, is another story.

With less than a week to go before the primaries, Gingrich still faces a steep uphill climb to get there. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, the former House Speaker trails Romney in the state by 10 percentage points.

In his attempt to close this gap, Gingrich has continued his attacks against Romney for how the former Massachusetts governor ran Bain Capital, a private-equity firm he led until 1999. At the Chamber of Commerce forum, surrounded by local business leaders, Gingrich stood by his line of attack, one that free-market groups have characterized as an assault on capitalism.

"I think this is one of the biggest acts of baloney in modern times," Gingrich said when pressed by the moderator at the event to explain his actions, adding that his words were "hardly an attack on capitalism."

"This is not venture capital. Venture capital is when you go and you put in your money and you stick it out," he said. "I'm not particularly proud of people who go in and leverage the game, borrow the money, leave the debt behind and walk off with all the profits. And I'd be glad to debate Romney anywhere in the country about specific cases."

"I'm proud of real capitalism," he added.

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