The First in the South, South Carolina Republican Presidential Preference Primary will be held Saturday, January 21st. It is hotly contested and the outcome is unpredictable. This is partly because Democrats and third party folks can vote to select the Republican candidate to challenge President Obama in November and because some candidates and political action committees are running vicious ads on television and mailing false and misleading information on their opponents. Uninformed voters will be confused.

Mitt Romney is favored by the polls to be the top vote receiver but he is not expected to receive a majority of the total vote count. Romney has concentrated his campaign between Columbia and Charleston and along the coast, where Republicans tend to be more moderate and Democrats and RINOs frequently prevail in elections. Romney seems to have “written off” the conservative Republican stronghold in the Upstate. He has made only one or two brief visits to the area in the entire campaign.

Former Utah Governor and Obama ambassador to China Jon Huntsman was endorsed by the State newspaper, South Carolina’s largest daily, but withdrew from the race in favor of fellow Mormon Mitt Romney, Monday morning. The Huntsman decision could add a couple of points to the Romney total.

The social-conservative, pro-life Christian vote is being split between Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, giving Romney an advantage on the vote count.

Most political observers and Christian leaders do not consider Ron Paul a factor in pulling votes from the conservative vote pool. They think Congressman Paul will get the Libertarian vote, members of the Constitution Party, and a segment of Democrats who favor his views on legalization of drugs, Gays in the military and his anti-war stance. They reject the proposition that Paul could pull a significant number of conservative Republican voters. They conclude that his fiscal conservative supporters who appreciate his stand on the Federal Reserve and government spending are already in the Paul pool. His poll numbers have remained fairly consistent at around 20 percent and are not expected to change much, according to pundits.

More than one hundred Evangelical Christian leaders met in Texas over the weekend to choose one of the three conservative candidates to support rather than split the vote and give Romney and the moderates a win. More than 70 percent of those in attendance voted to support Santorum who reportedly got an endorsement from a Texas billionaire going into the weekend. Santorum is the only candidate of the five remaining in the race that is apparently not running negative ads on opponents.

There is no clear indication what impact, if any, the Texas meeting will have on the South Carolina primary outcome.

Santorum has spent more time in the Upstate than any other candidate has. Gingrich has also spent considerable time here.

There is no perfect candidate. All conservative Republican candidates provide a stark contrast to President Obama. Gov. Romney has described Obama as a nice man who doesn’t know how to fix the economy and promises not to attack him personally, yet he has not made any such pledge to fellow Republicans.

Gingrich is very knowledgeable on all issues and would be a scrappy debater. Newt was a darling of conservatives when he was Speaker of the House and advocate for the Contract With America.

Santorum is not well-known nationally. If he does not finish at least third in South Carolina he may drop out, leaving only Gingrich to represent Conservatives, because Gov. Perry has not been able to garner support. Should Santorum outperform Gingrich, he will get a boost going forward. Should he outperform Romney, and he could if only Republicans were voting, it would be a game changer.

The Times Examiner does not endorse candidates, although we have allowed columnists and letter writers to do so. We trust our patriotic readers to make their own informed choices. The November 2012 General Election will determine the future of our republic.


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