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Matt Rourke, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich meets with supporters, Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, in Orangeburg, S.C.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — For Newt Gingrich, it all comes down to South Carolina.

After disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, the former House speaker has hit his stride before the nation's first Southern primary, rising in polls as he has rallied conservatives behind him as the most viable alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Fueled by fiery debate performances and assisted in part by his Southern roots, the former Georgia congressman is counting on a strong performance in South Carolina to catapult him back into the top tier of White House hopefuls.

Gingrich is set to dash through five campaign stops Saturday as voters go to the polls, including one morning event at a Greenville ham house where Romney is set to appear at the same time — highlighting their rivalry.