Despite an April poll which showed Romney in 2nd place in SC to Mike Huckabee for the GOP 2012 presidential nomination, questions continue to swirl about Romney's commitment to contest and win the South Carolina primary in 2012.
Questions started in April with the news that former 2008 SC staffers for Romney were headed to other jobs. Those questions were compounded by Romney's failure to show up at the debate sponsored by the SC GOP in Greenville on May 5th.
And now, Politico has a new story describing how Romney may not contest SC because he feels that his Mormon background may be an insurmountable obstacle in a primary dominated by evangelical Christians.
[Romney's] top aides, several allies said, view anti-Mormon views as a challenge in South Carolina, and it’s widely thought to be part of the reason he’s keeping the state at arm’s length.Another reason could be that Romney may not be able to count on the support of Sen. Jim DeMint, who endorsed Romney in the 2008 primary where Romney came in at 4th place. DeMint is the conservative king maker in SC and has voiced strong concerns about Romney's continuing handicap of being associated with the Massachusetts health care law which served as a model for ObamaCare.
It's important to note that no GOP candidate has ever gone on to win the nomination without winning SC. Can that history be upended?
A Must Win in New Hampshire?
Questions also swirl about Romney's commitment to contesting Iowa (1, 2, 3). That makes New Hampshire a must win for Romney in the early contests. But even here, support often seems lukewarm:
Granite State Republicans have lingering concerns about the Massachusetts health care legislation Mr. Romney signed and doubts about his commitment to pro-life and gun ownership issues. Some even question the depth of his appreciation for the legacy of Ronald Reagan.That last statement questioning Romney's sincerity is exactly how I felt upon speaking with him when he visited Hilton Head Island in 2007.
Gary Brown, a 56-year-old businessman, said he likes Mr. Romney's business experience but gives him the dreaded tag of RINO," or "Republican in name only."
John Moscillo, a 39-year-old real estate agent, said Mr. Romney reminds him of a "used-car salesman" and "will tell you what you want to hear."
State Rep. Laurie P. Pettengill, a 2008 Romney volunteer who rode the tea party wave into the New Hampshire Statehouse last year, said the former Massachusetts governor "doesn't resonate."
"I love the guy, but I just think that the average American doesn't connect with him," Ms. Pettengill said. "I think to a lot of people he says what they want to hear, and it doesn't come from his heart."
Still, Romney was the walkaway winner of an April poll of 416 likely GOP voters in New Hampshire with 35%. Trump came in second at 11%.
It's a pretty risky strategy for any candidate to put all their eggs in one basket. If you lose Iowa, you'll be facing a greater challenge when you get to New Hampshire even if you were the front runner the week before. If you manage to eke out a win in New Hampshire but then go on to lose South Carolina you are headed for trouble.
Readers may recall the strategy that Rudy Giuliani engaged in for 2008. He downplayed campaigns in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina yet hoped for the big prize in Florida. Yet McCain, who had the wind at his back after winning SC took Florida and that ended Rudy's hopes for the nomination.
Romney should think twice about making a token effort in either Iowa or SC. Weakness in those states may signal he's too weak to win the nomination!