The primary has become one of several key early state nominating contests in the process of choosing the nominee of the Republican Party for the election for President of the United States. It has historically been more important for the Republican Party than for the Democratic Party; from its inception in 1980, until the nomination of Mitt Romney in 2012, the winner of the Republican presidential primary had gone on to win the nomination. As of 2012, the primary has cemented its place as the "First in the South" primary for both parties.Newt Gingrich was declared the winner of the race as soon as polls closed, however, Mitt Romney went on to win the nomination.
The 2012 South Carolina Republican primary was tentatively scheduled to occur on February 28, 2012, much later than the date in 2008, which almost immediately followed the beginning of the year in January 2008. On September 29, 2011, the entire schedule of caucuses and primaries was disrupted, however, when it was announced that the Republican Party of Florida had decided to move up its primary to January 31, in an attempt to bring attention to its own primary contest, and attract the presidential candidates to visit the state. Because of the move, the Republican National Committee decided to strip Florida of half of its delegates. Also as a result, the South Carolina Republican Party, along with Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada then sought to move their primaries and caucuses back into early January. All but Nevada, who agreed to follow Florida, confirmed their caucus and primary dates to take place throughout January, with South Carolina deciding to hold their contest on January 21, 2012. It is an open primary.
Nine candidates appeared on the presidential primary ballot. South Carolina had only 25 delegates up for grabs because it moved its primary to January 21. Eleven delegates were awarded for the statewide winner, Newt Gingrich, and two additional delegates were awarded to the winner of each of the seven congressional districts. Six districts were won by Gingrich, and one by Romney, giving Gingrich twelve additional delegates and Romney two delegates.