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Bible belt beckons for Romney and co

Bible belt beckons for Romney and co
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As favourite to win in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney lived up to expectations emerging on top in the first primary to choose the Republicans’ presidential candidate. The next stop is South Carolina and he has just ten days to make his mark there.

Addressing supporters, he said: “Thank you New Hampshire, tonight we made history. You know tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we go back to work.”

And work he will have to. They like Romney in New Hampshire, but it is a different story in bible belt South Carolina. In a state with rampant unemployment Romney’s opponents will portray the multi-millionaire as a symbol of corporate greed.

Runner-up in New Hampshire was the elder statesman among the hopefuls, 76 year old Ron Paul, considered by some to be the godfather of the Tea Party of ultra-conservatives. A good result in South Carolina could set him up as a credible challenger to Romney.

Jon Huntsman landed third in New Hampshire. He is possibly the most moderate of all the runners, but with a stance very close to Romney’s.

He refused to take the result as a message to step down though the next primary could decide his future in the Republican campaign. He is trailing in the polls.

Sounding defiant he told a rally of his followers: “Thank you ladies and gentlemen. I’d say third place is a ticket to ride. Ladies and gentlemen: Hello South Carolina! “

Campaigning in South Carolina is already underway and promises to become ruthless. For the rivals, Romney is the man to beat, and the gloves are off to attack his record as a businessman.

But should the former Massachussetts governor However should he carry the day, his bandwagon will be very difficult to stop.

Analysing the New Hampshire presidential primary

In the aftermath of the New Hampshire presidential primary vote euronews spoke to Jeffrey Frieden, Professor of Government at Harvard University in Boston.

euronews: “Jeffrey, what do you make of the results from New Hampshire?”

Jeffrey Frieden:

“They’re more or less as expected. Mitt Romney did well. He came in first and got almost 40 percent of the vote. I think that comes close to about the best result he could expect in New Hampshire, which is a state which has always been friendly to him.

“The principal question in most people’s minds as we were moving into the primary were – who would come in second? And in that context, the question many of us were asking was whether Jon Huntsman might be able to displace Ron Paul in second position.

“Huntsman, as you may recall, put almost no effort into Iowa and put ALL of his effort into New Hampshire, which is a state which is more inclined towards his sort of moderate Republican political position. Huntsman did reasonably well with about 16 percent of the vote, but he did not come in second, he came in relatively far behind Ron Paul and so I think the principal result of this will be to raise serious questions as to whether Huntsman’s candidacy is viable.

euronews: “You mentioned that New Hampshire was generally friendly towards Romney. South Carolina has a higher unemployment rate than the national average, and of course Mitt Romney is a well-known billionaire who has made his money from buying companies and breaking them up, many of which are in South Carolina. How is he going to fare there do you think?”

Jeffrey Frieden:

“South Carolina is a very, very different environment for Romney. It’s a much more conservative state. Seventy percent of Republican voters, by most estimates, are evangelical Christians. There is some questions as to whether these evangelical Christians could be concerned about Romney being a Mormon.

“There is also a serious question about some of the economic issues that you mentioned. South Carolina has a very high unemployment rate and there is a lot of resentment against the kind of financial engineers that Romney, to some people, represents.

“Romney is also not as socially conservative as the average Republican voter in South Carolina. So he faces a much more difficult environment in South Carolina. This will be a true test of his ability to get support from the more conservative, and especially the more socially conservative wing of the Republican party.

“If Romney does well in South Carolina, I would say the nomination is clearly his. If, on the other hand, he does particularly poorly, particularly if he comes in second or even third, then the race may still be on.”

euronews: “There’s no sign of any of the runners dropping out of the race so far. That seems to be splitting the conservative vote and playing into the hands of Mitt Romney.”

Jeffrey Frieden:

“Absolutely. The Republican field is very fragmented, and the conservative wing of the Republican Party simply has not been able to unite around a single candidate. I think that’s largely because there are flaws in each of the candidates.

“Newt Gingrich is probably the most politically experienced, but he has many, many enemies within the party. People like Rick Perry, Santorum, Bachman – who has already dropped out – others have some support within the conservative wing, but each of them has grave weaknesses.

“So I think that one of the things that is helping Romney is that he has three or four conservative rivals, none of whom seems to be able to get the rest of the field to unite around him.”

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