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Romney Campaign Heads South Hoping For 3rd Win



It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. It's safe to say that plenty of Republicans would like to see a presidential candidate besides Mitt Romney.

GREENE: It's equally safe to say that at the moment they don't have one. Five of Romney's rivals are struggling to break through after he won both Iowa and New Hampshire.

INSKEEP: For some, the best or maybe even the last chance is South Carolina, where we'll hear the campaigning next. We begin with the front-runner and with NPR's Ari Shapiro.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Mitt Romney was still glowing from his 39 percent finish in New Hampshire when he boarded the plane to fly south.

MITT ROMNEY: It was like Christmas Day - that just each new report of votes coming in was like opening another present.

SHAPIRO: New England is friendly territory that Romney calls home. South Carolina is more conservative, more religious, and less of a natural fit. So other Republicans are doing their best to undermine him here. Most of them are focusing on Romney's years running the investment firm Bain Capital.

NEWT GINGRICH: I find powerful rich people rigging games very distasteful.

SHAPIRO: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaking there on MSNBC, came in near the bottom of the pack in New Hampshire. Texas Governor Rick Perry did even worse. He's staking his entire campaign on South Carolina. Yesterday Perry called Romney not a venture capitalist, but a vulture capitalist.

GOV. RICK PERRY: They sit there and they wait until they see a distressed company and then they swoop in and they'll pick the carcass clean and then fly away.

SHAPIRO: On the airplane, Romney scolded his fellow Republicans for the attacks.

We've understood for a long time that the Obama people would come after fee enterprise. A little surprised to see Newt Gingrich as the first witness for the prosecution.

Romney touched down in warm, wet, Columbia, South Carolina, just in time for an evening rally. In front of cheering voters, he didn't mention the fights within his party. That task went to Governor Nikki Haley.

GOVERNOR NIKKI HALEY: We have a real problem when we have Republicans talking like Democrats against the free market. We believe in the free market.


SHAPIRO: As always, Romney focused his comments on President Obama.

ROMNEY: I have to tell you, I know we're going through tough times, and we're going through tough times in part because of the failure of one man. That's why he's got to go.

SHAPIRO: The audience ate it up. As Romney described President Obama's promises, one man in the audience shouted - he lied, to cheers - recalling the South Carolina Congressman who heckled President Obama.

Romney came to this venue on a big blue bus. Kevin Krebs, a local doctor, says after the results in New Hampshire, Romney's vehicle might as well be a steamroller.

KEVIN KREBS: The more he wins the more obvious it looks like he'll be our nominee.

SHAPIRO: Thirty-one-year-old Tim Edmonds owns a gym and a shop in town. He doesn't know who he'll vote for, but he likes Romney's message about lowering taxes for small business owners.

TIM EDMONDS: That really kills me. On a day to day basis I work extremely hard and I'm a young guy and I'd like to open more businesses. So if I had a little extra capital at the end of every year I'd be able to do that.

SHAPIRO: Of course, Edmonds is not exactly the typical South Carolina Republican.

EDMONDS: Born and raised in Ohio.

SHAPIRO: Still, he thinks the conservative profile here is changing.

EDMONDS: I'm starting to see a little bit of a culture change through the younger generations also.

SHAPIRO: Today Romney leaves South Carolina for less than 24 hours. He'll hold a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida. That state votes at the end of the month. Showing that he's ready to fight a long primary if that's what it takes, Romney released a Spanish language ad yesterday featuring some of Florida's Hispanic politicians who've endorsed him and some family.

CRAIG ROMNEY: (Foreign language spoken) Craig Romney.

SHAPIRO: That was Mitt Romney's son Craig, who learned Spanish doing missionary work in Chile. Romney will also raise money while he's in Florida today. Yesterday his campaign released new fundraising numbers. Romney took in more than $56 million in 2011. He had $19 million cash on hand at the New Year. That's impressive compared to the other candidates still in the race. But it's only about three percent more than he had raised at this point the last time he ran for office, four years ago.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Columbia South, Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.