Mitt Romney’s march to the Republican presidential nomination could be halted if South Carolinians turn out in droves at next week’s primary, pollster John Zogby tells Newsmax.
A high turnout would be good for Ron Paul, and it could just be enough for an upset in the Palmetto State, Zogby said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV.
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Although Romney had an “impressive” victory in New Hampshire, South Carolina is a very different proposition for the former Massachusetts governor, he said.
“There is one fly in the ointment, and that’s Ron Paul,” said Zogby, the CEO of IBOPE Zogby. “Ron Paul draws his support from cities and college campuses and young people — not only 18- to 29-year-olds, but those under-40 as well.
“So if there is a high turnout in South Carolina, Ron Paul could actually hurt Mitt Romney.”
Zogby said the New Hampshire primary, in which Romney won 39 percent of the vote, showed that the GOP’s front-runner can get votes across the board.
“He won among self-described conservatives handily. He also won among moderates. Impressively in a six-person race, he got 40 percent of the self-identified tea party support. But he goes into South Carolina, and it’s different.”
Zogby described South Carolina as “two separate states.” The east coast and central area around Columbia are relatively moderate, but the rest is heavily ultra-conservative, he said.
“A good day for Romney is going to be to win handily in the eastern and central part of the state and watch his conservative opponents split the conservative vote,” he said.
Romney’s challenge going forward is to persuade voters that it is time for a change in the White House, Zogby said.
“First of all, he’s got to unite the party, and the GOP is seriously fractured,” he said. “Even though Romney won convincingly in New Hampshire, and the wind is at his back heading in to South Carolina and Florida, there’s got to be some significant healing.”
But a new IBOPE Zogby poll that shows only 1 in 4 Americans believes the country is headed in the right direction under President Barack Obama does hold hope for Romney.
“That’s not a good number,” Zogby said. “The right direction-wrong track question is a very important voting barometer, and generally, you should have a majority who feel that the country is headed in the right direction.”
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