Political analyst and Democratic pollster Doug Schoen tells Newsmax that while New Hampshire represents a “clear win” for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, South Carolina is shaping up to be a pivotal contest.
“It’s obviously a clear win for Gov. Romney but close to two thirds of Republican voters in New Hampshire wanted someone other than Gov. Romney,” Schoen said in an exclusive interview. “If the governor is able to win in South Carolina with the amount of firepower that’s going to be thrown at him he will have a big leg up for the nomination.”
Schoen predicts that South Carolina, a more conservative state than New Hampshire, will be much more closely contested than the Granite State.
“My prediction is that it will be very close and unless the opposition to Gov. Romney consolidates around one person he will win,” declares Schoen.
He said that he can envision a scenario in which Romney pulls 30-32 percent of the vote in South Carolina while his opponents fight over the rest.
“I think if Gov. Romney wins South Carolina, he can effectively get himself to the point where he has a decisive advantage by winning Florida. If he loses South Carolina, I think we’re in a much less predictable situation,” said Schoen, adding that “we could be in for a very different horse race than we’re now anticipating.”
Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, who finished second and third in New Hampshire respectively, are not likely to win South Carolina, according to Schoen, who said that Paul has an “enthusiastic but small constituency” and is likely to face a ceiling of 20 to 25 percent of the vote, while Huntsman will be viewed as too liberal in the Palmetto State.
Santorum, who came within eight votes of Romney in the Iowa caucuses, lost momentum in New Hampshire.
“Bad night for him. This is not a harbinger of good,” according to Schoen. “We’l know within 72 to 96 hours.”
That’s about how long Schoen believes it will take to see if Santorum can regain his momentum. “If not, it will basically be Gingrich who’s the main alternative,” he explained, noting that Gingrich has a political war chest to draw upon in South Carolina.
Rick Perry, who essentially took his campaign straight to South Carolina after a disappointing finish in the Iowa caucuses, still has money to spend in South Carolina — if not momentum, according to Schoen.
“I think if Perry gets any further it divides the anti-Romney vote and is ultimately assistance to Gov. Romney because it divides the ant-Romney vote,” he said.
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