(REUTERS) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has opened a wide lead over his rivals in the South Carolina primary election race, trouncing Newt Gingrich and gaining momentum in his march toward the party’s nomination, a Reuters/Ipsos poll shows.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, could all but quash his rivals’ presidential aspirations with a victory in South Carolina on January 21 after winning the first state-by-state nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Voters in South Carolina – who have favored Republicans in nine of the last 10 presidential elections – appear to have shrugged off attacks on Romney by rivals who accuse him of killing jobs as a private equity executive for Bain Capital in the 1990s.

The poll showed 37 percent of South Carolina Republican voters back Romney. Congressman Ron Paul and former Senator Rick Santorum tied for second place with 16 percent support.

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