Elections 2012: Mitt Romney Focuses on South Carolina

Republican presidential contenders brought buckets of cash and sharp rhetoric to South Carolina on Wednesday for an intense 10-day battle that may determine whether anyone can stop front-runner Mitt Romney’s march to the party’s nomination.

A Romney victory in the January 21 South Carolina primary, the next in a series of state-by-state contests among the Republican candidates, could extinguish his rivals' hopes of keeping him from becoming the nominee to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 6 general election. Photo: Mitt Romney/Flickr

A day after Mr. Romney’s victory in New Hampshire left his rivals running out of time to block his path to the nomination, he was greeted here by a wave of attacks on his business record, his past support for abortion rights and his character, reports The New York Times.

Trying desperately to stop Romney, his rivals have blasted him as a heartless corporate raider who enjoyed cutting jobs while amassing a fortune as a private equity executive, and have assailed him as not being a true conservative.

“The issue is ultimately going to be between a Reagan conservative and a Massachusetts moderate, and I think as his record is better known, he will grow weaker and weaker very fast,” Newt Gingrich, who is pinning his campaign hopes on South Carolina, said according to Reuters.

Two days after former Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. of Utah said that Mr. Romney “likes firing people,” the Associated Press reported him as saying on Wednesday: “If you have creative destruction in capitalism, which has always been part of capitalism, it becomes a little disingenuous to take on Bain Capital,” Mr. Romney’s former firm.

In New Hampshire, Romney won 39 percent of the vote, outpacing Ron Paul, a U.S. congressman from Texas known for libertarian views who came in second with 23 percent.

He was followed by Jon Huntsman, a moderate former U.S. ambassador to China and former governor of Utah who had focused his campaign on New Hampshire. Huntsman won 17 percent.

A poll by the Augusta Chronicle showed Romney with 23 percent support, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 21 percent. The poll’s 3.6 percent margin of error put them in a virtual tie.

A survey last week by the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling had Romney ahead of Gingrich by 7 points.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney attacked President Barack Obama for promulgating the “politics of envy” during a Wednesday interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s “The Today Show,” The Huff Post reports.

Though his attack was mainly directed at the president, Romney’s “envy” remark came after Lauer asked about the concerns of “anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country.”

“I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare,” Romney said. “I think when you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent… you’ve opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of ‘one nation under God.'”

Mr. Romney also noted the necessity of a public debate about the inequality of wealth distribution in this country, and claimed Obama’s focus on this issue was just “part of his campaign rally.”

“I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like,” he said. “But the president has made this part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it’ll fail.”

The winner of the South Carolina primary has become the nominee in every presidential election since 1980. South Carolina is also the only one of the early-voting states that is reliably Republican in presidential elections.

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