Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) predicted Wednesday that if former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) wins the South Carolina primary Jan. 21, he’ll likely go on to win his party’s nomination.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

“If you don’t win South Carolina, what do you do?” Todd asked Gingrich.

“I think it depends on who’s won and what kind of mess we’re in,” Gingrich responded.

Both Gingrich and former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) have made defeating Romney in South Carolina a top priority. A look at the Palmetto State’s historical role in the GOP nominating contest helps explain why: In every Republican presidential race since 1980, the candidate who has won South Carolina has gone on to win the party’s nomination.

A CNN/Time/Opinion Research poll of likely primary voters this month showed Romney at the front of the pack in South Carolina; he took 37 percent to Santorum’s 19 percent and Gingrich’s 18 percent. A month earlier, Gingrich was on top with 43 percent, with Romney trailing at 20 percent.

Todd also asked Gingrich on Wednesday what he thought about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) criticism of Romney as a “vulture capitalist” due to his tenure at Bain Capital.

Gingrich’s response?

“It could be a Texas thing. ... I think Texans find it very hard to be understated,” he said.

That statement could come back to haunt Gingrich if he happens to stay in the race until Texas holds its nominating contest April 3.