Pundits and even some of the Republican candidates are now saying if Romney wins South Carolina, he will probably win the nomination.
Romney is 10 points ahead of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum in South Carolina and but is downplaying expectations. David Hawkings at CQ Roll Call says Gingrich and/or Santorum may have a chance of closing the gap but it may be their last chance to derail the Romney train. He writes:
Both are much closer to the sort of cultural conservatives that South Carolinians tend to favor. (It’s really tough to see where Jon Huntsman takes his “ticket to ride” or how Ron Paul plays against type.) And neither the ex-Speaker nor the ex-senator (nor the super PACs that are promoting them, nor Rick Perry, who’s making his last stand in the state) has unleashed the full, multimillion-dollar measure of their TV attacks on the front-runner. If their highly unusual (for a Republican campaign) collective argument about the sins of private equity firm greed develops staying power, and if one of the candidates can claim the lion’s share of voters who turn against Bain Capital’s practice of bust-it-up capitalism, then there is still one final chance for the “corporate raider” Romney juggernaut to be derailed and a consensus conservative alternative to be crowned.
However, says Hawkings, if neither Gingrich nor Santorum are successful then Romney may be unstoppable. Hawkings points out that Gingrich has as much as conceded that SC is a must win for an non-Romney. He told MSNBC this morning that ““If Romney can win South Carolina, He’s probably going to be the nominee.” Republican South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint said much the same predicting that Romney will be successful in convincing South Carolina Republicans that he has the best chance of beating Obama and creating jobs.
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