And even if evangelicals spurn him, his opponents are almost certain to carve up that vote, considerably enhancing Romney’s chances of winning the state.
So far, polls suggest, the race is Romney’s to lose, as even his rivalÂ Newt GingrichÂ conceded Wednesday.
“Look, let’s be clear: If Romney can win South Carolina, he’s probably going to be the nominee,” the former House speaker toldÂ MSNBC.
South Carolina’s six-man brawl opened with new assaults on Romney’s business record by Gingrich and Texas Gov.Â Rick Perry. Supporters of Romney, in turn, resumed airing a TV attack ad against Gingrich.
From Charleston Harbor to the northern hill country, theWhite HouseÂ contenders scattered across South Carolina, braving rain all the way.
Local newscasts were crammed with scenes of the would-be presidents:Â Rep. Ron PaulÂ of Texas whipping up “End the Fed!” cheers at a Columbia airplane hangar rally, Gingrich signing books in Spartanburg, Perry shaking hands at a Lizard’s Thicket diner in Lexington.
Former Utah Gov.Â Jon HuntsmanÂ Jr., who finished third in the New Hampshire primary, hopes to erode Romney’s support among moderates.