For Mitt Romney, it's likely to feel a lot hotter in South Carolina (+video)
Coming off a decisive win Tuesday in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney leads the pack in South Carolina, polls show. But the state is not a natural fit for him, and some GOP rivals are on the warpath.
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Indeed, in conservative South Carolina, recent polls show Romney averaging an 11-point lead over his nearest competitor, Mr. Santorum. The Pennsylvanian nearly beat Romney in Iowa, but fell to fifth place in New Hampshire. Santorum’s religious conservative views give him a natural entree into South Carolina, so the question is whether he can regain momentum – and keep raising major money. In the week since Iowa, he brought in $3 million – after going for nine months on just $2 million, he says. Wednesday morning, his campaign announced the opening of five new offices in South Carolina.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Gingrich, who finished fourth in New Hampshire, could also be a player in South Carolina – but more as a spoiler than a top-tier contender. A pro-Gingrich outside group has pledged to spend $3.4 million in South Carolina promoting a documentary that attacks Romney’s career as a venture capitalist at Bain Capital, which entailed closing troubled businesses and laying off workers.
On Tuesday, prominent conservatives – including radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh – accused Gingrich of bashing the free-enterprise system. “He sounds like Elizabeth Warren!” said Mr. Limbaugh, referring to the liberal Harvard Law professor running for Senate in Massachusetts.
Still, the economic woes of South Carolina, where unemployment is higher than in Iowa and New Hampshire, could play a role in the primary. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who skipped New Hampshire to focus on South Carolina, has also gone after Romney over South Carolina businesses that closed at the hands of Bain. Romney’s campaign pitch centers on his background in the private sector and record of job creation, and the sudden negativity from fellow Republican puts him on the defensive.
But Romney remains one click ahead of his GOP competitors. Wednesday morning, he released a Spanish-language ad in Florida, whose Jan. 31 primary is next on the schedule after South Carolina. Florida’s large Latino vote – featuring conservative Cuban-Americans and more liberal Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, and others – will be critical both in the Jan. 31 primary and in the general election. The ad features three prominent south Florida Cuban-Americans – GOP Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. It is narrated by one of Romney’s sons, Craig, who served as a Mormon missionary in Chile.
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