Romney takes aim at South Carolina after his easy win in New Hampshire

Mitt Romney, fresh from a strong victory in New Hampshire, turned his attention Wednesday to the southern state of South Carolina where he is perceived as too moderate and faces a fierce battle.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Mitt Romney, fresh from a strong victory in New Hampshire, turned his attention Wednesday to the southern state of South Carolina where he is perceived as too moderate and faces a fierce battle.

A rougher tone and a tougher ideological terrain await the former Massachusetts governor in the state where evangelicals make up the base of the Republican Party. His rivals are banking on that to stop him in his tracks, while Romney is looking to force them from the race with a four-state winning streak that cuts through South Carolina on Jan. 21 and Florida 10 days later.

He posted a double-digit win Tuesday night in New Hampshire after winning by just eight votes the week before in Iowa. His victory was expected; Romney is the former governor of the neighbouring state of Massachusetts, has a vacation home in New Hampshire and is a frequent visitor to the state.

He conceded Wednesday that he has an uphill climb in South Carolina, where he finished fourth in 2008. In an interview on a morning television news show he said, “I don’t know if we can win South Carolina.”

Still, Tuesday night’s victory in New Hampshire went a long way toward making him his party’s choice to run against President Barack Obama in November.

Romney garnered 39 per cent of the vote, a 16-percentage point advantage over his closest challenger, Texas congressman Ron Paul. A win in South Carolina primary and then Florida could make Romney all but unstoppable.

Because of his appeal to independent voters, Romney could be the toughest potential rival for Obama, whose popularity has fallen because of the slow U.S. recovery from the Great Recession. Exit polls showed the economy was the biggest issue in New Hampshire, as it has been nationwide.

Romney emerged from that race on Tuesday night with no clear rival to challenge him as front-runner.

Paul finished second with 23 per cent, with 95 per cent of precincts reported. It was his second strong showing after finishing third in Iowa, the first nominating contest. But Paul remains a longshot for the nomination. While he has a loyal core of supporters drawn to his libertarian, small-government message, his calls for military cuts, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and legalizing drugs puts him at odds with the Republican mainstream.

The third-place finisher, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, also appears unlikely to win the nomination. He won 17 per cent after campaigning intensely in New Hampshire. But he is at the bottom of national polls. He is not as conservative as his rivals, and his role as Obama’s ambassador to China does not endear him to Republicans with harsh views of the president.

Meanwhile, the three candidates most likely to draw conservative voters — Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry — have been struggling.

Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, and Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who came within eight votes of winning Iowa, each won 9 per cent Tuesday. Perry, who considered dropping out of the race after a poor fifth-place showing in Iowa, effectively skipped New Hampshire to focus on South Carolina. He got 1 per cent of the vote.

All the candidates planned to campaign Wednesday in South Carolina. Some Republicans doubt whether Romney is sufficiently conservative given his shifting views on abortion and other social issues. Some are also wary of his Mormon faith.

TV ads already are filling the South Carolina airwaves, including negative spots like the new one from Gingrich assailing Romney for switching his position on an issue that resonates strongly with evangelicals.

“He governed pro-abortion,” the Gingrich ad says. “Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney: He can’t be trusted.”

In an appearance Wednesday in South Carolina, Gingrich — who represented neighbouring Georgia in the House — played up his regional ties, saying: “It’s good to be home in the South.” He also appealed to the state’s evangelical and socially conservative voters, pledging to fight “anti-Christian bigotry.”

But with conservatives failing to rally behind a single candidate, their votes could be divided among Gingrich, Santorum and Perry, creating an opening for Romney.

Several of Romney’s rivals have made it clear that they will seek to undercut the chief rationale of his candidacy: that his experience in private business makes him the strongest Republican to take on Obama on the economy in the fall.

In recent weeks, rivals have stepped up criticism of Romney, seizing on his record at the venture capital firm Bain Capital.

Perry, for one, is accusing Romney of “vulture capitalism” that led to job losses in economically distressed South Carolina and other states. A group supporting Gingrich, who saw his once-soaring candidacy crash under a barrage of negative ads by Romney supporters in Iowa, has pledged to spend $3.4 million for anti-Romney ads.

But Romney got some support from an unusual source on Wednesday, his rival Paul.

Chastising the antibusiness rhetoric of the other Republican contenders, Paul told MSNBC that : “I just wonder whether they’re totally ignorant of economics or whether they’re willing to demagogue just with the hopes of getting a vote or two.”

In his victory speech, Romney said the attacks on his business record from Republican rivals were similar to Democratic criticisms.

“President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him,” Romney said in his victory speech, chastising his critics while acting as though he is already the nominee. “This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation.”

But, appearing to position him as the party’s inevitable nominee, most of his fire was directed at Obama.

“The president has run out of ideas,” he said. “And now he’s running out of excuses.”

The White House has already begun targeting Romney. Vice-President Joe Biden, in a video conference with party activists on Tuesday evening, cast Romney as someone who would side with the wealthy, while he and Obama “have one overarching commitment — to give the middle class a fighting chance.”

Obama, running unopposed, won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire.

Romney’s victory in New Hampshire made him the first Republican to sweep the first two contests in competitive races since 1976.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Red Deer jumps to 449 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday

1,516 new cases identified in Alberta

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read