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Matt Rourke, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is seen on his bus after an event at Jones Memorial AME Zion Church, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, in Columbia, S.C.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was greeted with a standing ovation when he was announced at the South Carolina barbecue.

Too bad the former House speaker wasn't around to see it.

He was inexplicably missing from Friday's event. His absence forced the event's moderator to ask awkwardly, "Can we check and see where the speaker is?"

It was just one in a string of clumsy, head-scratching events staged by the Gingrich campaign since the Republican primary moved to South Carolina. It's a state that the candidate says he must win if he wants a shot at the nomination.

The chain of slip-ups raises questions about the campaign's staffing and organizational skills, issues that have haunted Gingrich during the 2012 race.