Election 2012: South Carolina Primary is wide open

  • Published on January 12th, 2012

The GOP party hand for the South Carolina primary  Some rights reserved by DonkeyHoteyNow that Iowa and New Hampshire have voted, the next big challenge for the GOP Presidential contenders is South Carolina, coming up January 24th.

South Carolina has been the grave of insurgents, most recently helping John McCain bury Mike Huckabee in 2008; in 2000 it was McCain who lost out to George W Bush. But this time around, things are looking very fluid. It appears that ALL the candidates may have peaked too soon.

  • Mitt Romney leads, but barely – from a high of 37% just last week, he’s now polling in the mid-twenties.
  • Newt Gingrich is just a couple of points back now, at 21% – down from his peak of 43% in November.
  • Likewise, Rick Santorum peaked right after Iowa, at 24%, which would have given him the lead today – but he’s fallen to the mid teens.
  • Ron Paul is rising – boosted by his second-place NH finish, he’s currently at his best ever in the state. But that’s just 13%.
  • Likewise, Jon Huntsman’s strong NH showing has boosted him in SC – but so far that’s just from 3% to 7%.

In other words… with four mediocre Not Mitts dividing the vote (plus Rick Perry still snagging a few percent), Romney may squeak through to “victory” with a pathetic 25%.

A different playing field

What happened to the New Hampshire momentum?

Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal says that the granite state was just too different:

  • New Hampshire voters were familiar with Romney from his four years as governor of Massachusetts and his earlier U.S. Senate run…
  • That popularity helped Romney carry nearly every demographic subgroup in New Hampshire. Paul ran first among voters under age 40 and those with annual incomes under $30,000, but Romney ran ahead with all other groups.
  • In New Hampshire, he was the first choice of Tea Party supporters (winning 41 percent of their vote), strong conservatives (29 percent) and self-described evangelical or born-again Christians (31 percent).
  • Without the boost of favorite-son status for Romney, exit polls past and present suggest that South Carolina has the potential to be far more favorable to candidates like Santorum, Newt Gingrich or even Rick Perry.


But the headlines on January 25th aren’t going to read “Not Mitt Wins South Carolina”. Romney may have only won Iowa by 8 votes, but everyone cast that as a “victory”. Blumenthal warns that the same thing could happen here.

Any one of [Santorum, Gingrich, or Perry] might have the potential to consolidate support among the most conservative and evangelical voters, but with all three running, those votes are likely to split.

Such a split occurred in South Carolina in 2008, when self-described conservatives divided their votes among Mike Huckabee (35 percent), John McCain (26 percent), Fred Thompson (19 percent) and Romney (16 percent). But since McCain won 50 percent of the votes cast by non-conservatives, he was able to carry South Carolina by three points (33 to 30 percent) over Huckabee.

And that three-point win was enough to sink Huckabee (who had won Iowa) and allow McCain – as weak and flawed a candidate as he was – to win the nomination.

Mitt may emerge from South Carolina the victor – but even weaker than McCain.


What’s Mitt’s problem? He’s getting pounded five separate ways, and the critique seems to be taking hold. As the National Journal’s Ron Fournier points out,

…Mitt Romney easily won New Hampshire’s primary Tuesday night, stepping to the brink of the GOP  nomination with a historic sweep of the first two presidential contests. But this past week exposed his existential vulnerability: Romney is easily cast as a cold-hearted phony.

And the really fun part is… it looks like he’s going to snag the nomination anyway! Which is good news for President Obama, who you can bet is going to hammer Romney with those same critiques, and quote his GOP opponents.

And all things considered, that’s a good thing for the planet.

(Image AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by DonkeyHotey)

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
  • Josie Jo

    See Gov Huckabee and Rep Tim Scott dedicate a song to Pres Obama at Saturday Fox Forum found on youtube http://youtu.be/OrR6tvo8b7w

  • womanforpaul

    Ron Paul, a patriot, who has honorably served his country, defends both the constitution and civil liberties, and is for peace and prosperity. Dr. Paul has the wisdom, foresight, honesty and integrity to be president.

    Dr. Paul believes spending and deficits are destroying this country. Dr. Paul’s budget plan would save $1 trillion in the first year. Besides the spending cuts, there are other issues of importance to voters. For conservatives, Dr. Paul scores an A+ on all of them: Second Amendment protection, pro-life record, right-to-work, pro-business, anti-tax, states’ rights, you name it.

    Dr. Paul also believes America should have the strongest national defense on earth — which he believes begins with not trying to constantly police the earth. Right now, our government puts our best and bravest in harm’s way on a regular basis for questionable reasons and with no discernible notion of victory. This is not supporting the troops. It’s abusing them. Dr. Paul wants an end to this absurd, costly policy.

    The voters have declared Dr. Paul the alternative to the liberal, flip flopping Mitt Romney. The other candidates are simply irrelevant. In the New Hampshire Primary, Dr. Paul received more votes than all the supposed Anti-Romney (Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry) candidates combined.

    The question for Republican voters is not whether they can afford to vote for Dr. Paul – it’s whether they can afford not to.

    America Needs Ron Paul.

  • Pingback: 2012 Elections – Salon()

  • Pingback: Election 2012: South Carolina Primary is wide open | The Presidency()