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Matt Rourke, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, center right, campaigns at Tommy’s Country Ham House, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, in Greenville, S.C., on South Carolina's Republican primary election day.

GREENVILLE, S.C. — So just where was the beef?

It turns out that the great ham house standoff had no sizzle, no matter how you sliced it.

GOP presidential rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were expected to cross paths at a campaign stop in Greenville as they rallied voters on primary day. But the much-hyped Republican run-in failed to materialize after Romney showed up at Tommy's Ham House earlier than originally planned.

A sea of "Newt 2012" and "Romney" signs jostled in the packed restaurant.

Romney departed about 20 minutes before Gingrich arrived. When Gingrich walked in he said, "where's Mitt?"

Earlier, Gingrich urged voters to support him if they want to stop Romney from winning the nomination.

Gingrich stopped by The Grapevine restaurant in Boiling Springs not long after the polls opened g. He told diners who were enjoying plates of eggs and grits that he's the "the only practical conservative vote" if Republicans want to slow Romney, described by Gingrich as a Massachusetts moderate.

Gingrich said he would put a stop to federal actions against South Carolina's voter ID and immigration laws.

The former House speaker, who has seen his support rise in the days before the primary, said "polls are good, votes are better."

After disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, the former House speaker hit his stride as the nation's first Southern primary neared, rallying conservatives behind him as the most viable alternative to the former Massachusetts governor.

Fueled by fiery debate performances and assisted in part by his Southern roots, Gingrich counted on a strong performance Saturday in South Carolina's GOP primary to catapult him back into the top tier of White House hopefuls.