Real Clear Politics, Scott Conroy returns to The Victory Sessions to discuss the South Carolina Primary and the upcoming Florida Primary with host Stephen K. Bannon on KABC. FULL INTERVIEW!
By Scott Conroy
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Mitt Romney came to South Carolina with plenty of reasons to believe he would notch his third straight victory without a defeat and cement his status as the inevitable Republican presidential nominee.
He left the state with one fewer win than when he arrived here and facing more questions about the resiliency of his campaign than at any point since he launched his second White House bid back in June.
South Carolina was always going to be one of Romney’s tougher hauls. After all, his aides like to point out, he finished in fourth place here in 2008.
But Romney did not just lose a few delegates in falling to Newt Gingrich here. He staggered into a defensive posture on the heels of Gingrich’s barrage of attacks against him and the way some in the media rallied the conservative rank-and-file to the former House speaker’s cause.
In the last week, Romney lost his Iowa win in a recount and his once considerable South Carolina lead in the blink of an eye, and he at times appeared rattled as a result.
Still, as the Republican grudge match moves farther south — where the intensity figures to ramp up even higher — the former Massachusetts governor retains several key advantages in the pivotal 10 days before Florida Republicans head to the polls.
Romney has invested in early television advertising in the expensive media state and enjoys a solid campaign infrastructure there that has been particularly active in taking advantage of early voting rules there.
But there is no doubt that the ever-shifting momentum in this race now belongs to Gingrich, who may additionally benefit from Florida’s rules, which allow only registered Republicans to vote in its primary.
Within moments of conceding in South Carolina, Romney aimed to demonstrate once again that he has long prepared to fight a drawn-out battle for the nomination.
In his remarks to a young and enthusiastic crowd Saturday night, Romney sharpened his message against Gingrich, portraying his chief GOP rival as a political opportunist with anti-capitalist leanings.
Romney’s hope was that whatever advantages Gingrich may have garnered from attacking his business career at Bain Capital will soon backfire when conservatives look more deeply at the ramifications of those remarks.
“When my opponents attack success and free enterprise, they’re not only attacking me,” Romney said Saturday night. “They’re attacking every person who dreams of a better future.”