South Carolina is the Pivotal GOP Primary

Monday, 09 Jan 2012 02:56 PM

By Dan Weil

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With a victory for Mitt Romney all but assured in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, attention is turning to South Carolina, which holds its primary Jan. 21. Many conservatives see that as the state of their last stand, Politico reports.

If one of the conservative candidates can turn Romney back in the Palmetto State, where he leads in the polls, then we have a horse race, the thinking goes. If not, the Romney bandwagon will likely cruise to victory.

What’s at stake in New Hampshire now is second place – can Rick Santorum beat Newt Gingrich? Or will Jon Huntsman make a late surge into second or a strong third?

Huntsman, the former Utah governor, likely needs such a showing to continue his campaign. And whoever finishes better between former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum and former House Speaker Gingrich can claim the mantle – at least temporarily – as Romney’s chief conservative competitor.

Then the stage will be set for South Carolina. “If we can be that strong conservative alternative [out of New Hampshire], then that’s the place where we can do well,” Santorum said.

South Carolina is a solidly conservative state that has voted for the GOP’s eventual nominee in every race since 1980. So even Huntsman acknowledged that if Romney wins there, he’s sitting pretty. “That’s a strong run, there’s no question about that,” Huntsman told Politico, referring to a Romney sweep of the first three states.

“Pretty soon somebody builds up a sense of inevitability and in fundraising and organization and all that. It’s just the real world.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., knows a little about South Carolina, which fortified his presidential campaign in 2008. He’s confident about his man Romney.

“He’s going to win in New Hampshire, and it’s going to come down, as it always does, to South Carolina,” McCain said at a rally near Myrtle Beach last week. “If Mitt Romney wins here, he will be the next president of the United States.”


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