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New Hampshire Down, South Carolina Next: Fellow Candidates Pile on Romney

Posted on the 12 January 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost

New Hampshire down, South Carolina next: Fellow candidates pile on Romney

Mitt Romney: Looking presidential? Photo credit: Gage Skidmore,

The race for the Republican presidential nomination hurtles onwards: With Iowa and New Hampshire now distant memories, American political attention is now focused on the January 21 South Carolina primary.

Six candidates remain: Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and the current frontrunner; Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House; Ron Paul, the Texan congressman with libertarian tendencies; Rick Perry, governor of Texas; Rick Santorum, the social conservative surprise near-winner in Iowa; and Jon Hunstman, the largely ignored former governor of Utah who pulled out a third place win in New Hampshire. And, according to Chris Cizzilla at The Washington Post, it’s South Carolina that’s the important caucus – “the Granite State vote is only the appetizer to South Carolina’s main course”.

For a schedule of the Republican primaries and caucuses, check here.

Dirty South. South Carolina is, according to Gregory J. Krieg at ABC News’ The Note blog, notorious for dirty politics – a legacy of Republican strategist Lee Atwater’s devious attacks in the state – and with six candidates left in the race, each one of them fighting for survival and willing to trash the other, it’s about to get even dirtier. But is South Carolina’s reputation for hard-ball, low-blow political wrangling still deserved? Peter Hamby, political reporter for CNN, suggested that the current political reality in the Palmetto State isn’t quite as nasty; or rather, that underhanded tactics simply don’t work as well as they used to: “While there were plenty of shady stunts and headline-grabbers during the 2008 Republican primary – several of them perpetrated by the Mitt Romney campaign – none had a major impact.”

Piling on Romney. Romney, despite enjoying only middling popularity among Republicans, emerged victorious from Iowa – barely – and New Hampshire. Unsurprisingly, his fellow candidates are piling on the pain, The New York Times reported, attacking Romney’s conservative record on issues such as abortion in a very conservative state. Gingrich, fellow Mormon Jon Hunstman, and Perry have all attacked Romney’s business past, specifically his company Bain Capital – Perry branded them “Vulture capitalism”. Romney is now fighting back with all the “force of his formidable campaign machinery”. Still, noted Ian Bremmer at Reuters, it doesn’t really matter: “Mitt Romney will be the nominee, and that’s been clear for months.” Even as Republican voters appear to lurch towards anyone but Romney, he remains the most likely to be elected. This problem Romeny faces is “that candidates with no chance of winning the nomination are refusing to get out of the race.”

Dogs Against Romney: Mitt Romney is, some would have you believe, no friend to the four-legged and furry. During his Romney’s 2008 run for the nomination, an enterprising Boston Globe reporter uncovered a story about how the former Massachusetts governor once strapped his crated dog to the roof of his car on a windy ride to Canada; the dog, probably terrified, defecated. Now, anti-Romney campaigners are showing up at his rallies with signs reading “Dogs Against Romney” and columnists are all over the story, once again. But has the story jumped the shark? The Atlantic thinks so.

Ron Paul. The Texan libertarian has emerged as a significant force in this race, coming in second in New Hampshire, but he’s still being dismissed by the Republican establishment, Ana Marie Cox noted on her blog at The Guardian. His ascendency, however, reveals what the commentariat has long suspected about the GOP: It’s splintering. “Something is wrong with this picture – unless you stop taking it for granted that the Republican party represents any coherent version of conservative ideology. That seems to be what voters are concluding.”

Newt Gingrich. The “grim anti-hero” of the Republican Party, Gingrich perseveres “completely out of spite”, Cox claimed. Still smarting from the series of damaging attack ads Romney supporters ran ahead of the Iowa caucus, Gingrich has been on the attack ever since: Jon Stewart, host Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, warned South Carolina to brace for Hurricane Newt’s winds of negativity and vitriol. Gingrich reserves the full force of his efforts for Romney; Steve Kornacki at Salon observed that though Gingrich is calling the frontrunner out on Romney’s “penchant for opportunistic flip-flops and his history of ideological apostasies”, he “is now running in South Carolina as pretty much the exact candidate he came to the state to beat.”

The Tebow Factor: Tim Tebow, the deeply Christian and mostly competent quarterback for the Denver Broncos, is being feted as the need to get endorsement for Republican this year; at least, according to Tebow himself. Why is Tebow such a phenomenon? Well, pushing aside the vaguely offensive notion that God is a Broncos fan, Tebow embodies a strangely winning combination of a successful sports career, determination and devout religion. Or, as Gawker‘s Max Read explained, “‘Scrappy white guy uses grit, determination, and his faith in God to win miraculously under pressure’ is what most people here think of as a good summary of the New Testament.”

Yes, Rick Perry is still in the race. And he’s hoping that South Carolina will hear his pro-military, deeply Christian message, The New York Times reported. Perry’s performance in New Hampshire and Iowa were both dismal, but he appears to be hitting his stride in South Carolina: “Here, though, the crowds who have come to see him the past few days in the more socially conservative parts of the state have seemed to like more of what he believes in. That often has had more to do with how he and his wife, Anita, come across personally than with any particular piece of policy.” But Paul Harris, reporting from South Carolina for The Guardian, questioned whether Perry’s decision to stake his relevancy on South Carolina will actually pay off: “It is going to be an uphill battle…. [M]ost experts agree, Perry needs to pull off something remarkable here if he is to stay relevant in the race. Otherwise the final whistle will almost certainly soon blow on Rick Perry’s 2012 ambitions to be president.”

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