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Race for US Republican Party Nomination Heads South

While Mitt Romney may have scored a solid victory in New Hampshire, the field of Republican Party candidates seeking the party's nomination in the 2012 U.S. presidential elections remains a six-man race. And all of the candidates are looking to the next stop in the race, South Carolina.

Mitt Romney captured nearly 40 per cent of the vote in New Hampshire, putting him in a clear lead in the race. In his victory speech, Romney looked to South Carolina and the man who could ulimately be his main competitor, President Barack Obama.

"And tonight, we're asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire and make 2012 the year [President Barack Obama] runs out of time," Romney said.

Congressman Ron Paul, who placed second in New Hampshire, was undeterred, as was Jon Huntsman, a former Utah governor and ambassador to China. "I'd say third place is a ticket to ride, ladies and gentlemen!," Huntsman said.

Rick Santorum, who lost to Romney by only eight votes in Iowa, cast himself as the genuine candidate of the Republican base. "Ladies and gentleman, we have an opportunity in this race. We have an opportunity to be the true conservative," Santorum said.

But political analysts, say that for Romney's Republican rivals, South Carolina's January 21 primary could determine whether they will ever be able to mount a serious challenge.

"To the extent that folks like Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman were focusing all their attention on really early states like Iowa and New Hampshire, that was time and money and effort that they weren't putting into South Carolina. So, everyone else who is not Romney is going to be playing catch-up," said Chris Galdieri of St. Anselm College.

Even before votes were cast in New Hampshire, candidates were out meeting with voters in South Carolina trying to pave the way for victory there.

Mitt Romney has received the endorsement of 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who won the South Carolina primary that year. He's also got the support of the state's governor, Nikki Haley.

Analysts say that unless conservative voters who do not like Romney start to coalesce around a single candidate, Romney could very likely emerge as the candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in the general election.