Respected pollster Matt Towery tells Newsmax that Mitt Romney’s victory tonight in New Hampshire assures him “clear front-runner” status heading into the South Carolina primary, but he predicts that Romney will find very different voter dynamics in the Palmetto State.
“It’s not a smashing victory. It’s a good victory. It’s a solid victory and it puts him as the clear front-runner for the Republican race,” said Towery, chief pollster for InsiderAdvantage which plans to take its first poll for the South Carolina primary Wednesday.
“I would warn everyone: South Carolina will be the decisive race,” he declared, adding that South Carolina has been harder hit by the difficult economy than either Iowa or New Hampshire.
“You get into South Carolina and you get into Florida and you’re going to find out what it’s like to see some really upset people,” Towery said in an exclusive interview.
Towery believes that Romney would have had to capture a minimum of 40 percent of the vote in New Hampshire to assure a victory in South Carolina, something which he had not accomplished based on early returns.
“I think South Carolina is going to be, in the end, a closer battle than expected,” Towery tells Newmax, predicting that neither Ron Paul nor Jon Huntsman — who finished second and third in New Hampshire, respectively — will be much of a threat in South Carolina.
“Paul historically falls apart in the South,” according to Towery. “They’re not interested in throwing their vote away. That’s the same for Huntsman. But his Chinese was damn good.”
With Paul and Huntsman having less appeal to South Carolina voters, the possibility exists for Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Rick Perry to regain momentum for a final battle in Florida at the end of the month.
“The only thing Huntsman serves to do is make Mitt Romney appear to be conservative,” said Towery. “If I were Romney, I’d be using him as a foil to prove that I was conservative.”
Towery says that Gingrich made a tactical error in not bypassing New Hampshire to spend more time in South Carolina, while Santorum had no choice but to come to New Hampshire because he gained momentum from a strong showing in Iowa.
“I think, in the end, it will be Gingrich, Santorum and obviously Romney in the lead,” said Towery. “Those three will vie to see if we have a primary that even matters in Florida.”
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