South Carolina Republican Primary: All Eyes On Mitt Romney

South Carolina Primary – Following his New Hampshire victory, Mitt Romney heads to South Carolina hoping to gain voter confidence and a another Republican win, as tensions rise with Newt Gingrich.

But the state and its Jan. 21 vote will be the true test of whether we’re in for a truncated GOP race — or a long slog into April. A Romney victory — he led with 37 percent of the South Carolina vote in a CNN poll last week — would make it difficult for many of his opponents to justify a continued campaign.

“It would be very hard,” Gingrich reportedly told reporters as New Hampshire votes rolled in on Tuesday. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who nearly abandoned the contest after a poor finish in Iowa, may be in the same boat.

And so for the next 10 days, Georgia’s next-door neighbor is likely to be a savage land of last resorts. Romney will be the primary target. Another could be the woman likely to be at Romney’s side during much of the campaigning — Gov. Nikki Haley.

An endorsement from a popular governor is always a plus for a presidential candidate. A governor with baggage is not — and the amount of weight that Haley finds herself saddled with has become a hot topic of debate in South Carolina.

Haley’s endorsement of Romney was no surprise. She had backed the former Massachusetts governor in 2008. Last May, on the eve of his entry into the presidential contest, the South Carolina governor said that Gingrich would have to prove that his ideas were “still relevant.”

But last month, days before she made her most recent endorsement of Romney, a statewide South Carolina poll of 1,073 registered voters found that only 35 percent approved of the job she had done in her first year of office. Her approval rating was lower than that of President Barack Obama.

Haley’s campaign pollster put out a memo that declared the poll conducted by Winthrop University included “far too many Democrats and far too few Republicans” to be accurate. And the Romney campaign leaked an internal poll of the state that placed Haley’s job approval at 66 percent.

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