Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is celebrating after a convincing win in the South Carolina Republican primary.

Gingrich, often described as a hardline conservative candidate, got 40 per cent of the total vote, while fellow contender Mitt Romney only received 28 per cent support.

The loss comes as somewhat of a surprise for the more moderately conservative Romney, who had shown a comfortable lead in the polls as recently as last week.

Speaking after his victory, Gingrich attributed his support to a type of American.

“(It’s those) who feel that the elites in Washington and New York have no understanding, no care, no concern, no reliability and in fact do not represent them at all,” Gingrich said.

Next up in the race for the Republican presidential nomination is the Florida primary, planned for January 31.