Coming off a decisive win Tuesday in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney leads the pack in South Carolina, polls show. But the state is not a natural fit for him, and some GOP rivals are on the warpath.
There, the center-right former governor of Massachusetts faces a Republican electorate that is more tilted toward conservatives and born-again Christians than in the Granite State. The tea party movement is more organized. And culturally, the northern Mr. Romney is a less-natural fit than he was in New Hampshire, where he owns a home and is neighbor to the state he once governed.
But as the Republican presidential field descends on South Carolina for the first Southern primary, on Jan. 21, Romney remains in position to rise above a divided field of opponents and further solidify his status as the front-runner for the GOP nomination. Five other major candidates remain in the race, and as long as voters fail to coalesce around any one of them, there is little hope of stopping Romney.
Romney won New Hampshire with 39 percent of the vote, followed by Rep. Ron Paul (23 percent), former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (17 percent), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (9.4 percent), and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (9.3 percent).
Nationally, Romney now enjoys broad acceptability among Republicans of all hues. According to a Gallup poll released Jan. 10, Romney is the only candidate whom a majority of conservative and moderate/liberal Republicans view as “acceptable” for the nomination, with 59 percent of each group agreeing with that assessment.