The field of candidates seeking the GOP presidential nomination has been in a constant flux, and the role played by South Carolina’s “First in the South” primary has allowed it to ride the many waves of change. The latest candidate to be presented with an opportunity to win the early-voting Palmetto State is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose long-stagnant campaign has seen a recent surge of support.
South Carolina has played a key role in Republican Presidential politics since the primary was first held in 1980. Today, the state’s role in the Republican primary process is proclaimed by “We Pick Presidents” bumper stickers distributed by the state’s GOP. While the state’s GOP voters have sometimes backed established front-runners, like Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George W. Bush in 2000, they’ve also gone for those struggling to win elsewhere or making a late surge. Examples of the latter include John McCain, whose 2008 primary win helped his struggling campaign regain traction, and George H.W. Bush in 1988, who was trying to establish a firm lead in the primary field after finishing third in the Iowa caucuses and a tough fight in New Hampshire.
The 2012 primary has featured a large pack of candidates with lots of wild swings in support among them. South Carolina has not been left out of these rapidly-changing currents. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry all generated considerable waves of early enthusiasm with state GOP activists, only to lose ground later on. The newest candidate to surge in the Palmetto State is Gingrich.
Bolstering polls that show growing voter support for Gingrich, GOP activists in the Palmetto State have begun taking increased interest in his candidacy. Growing turnout at campaign events is one promising for the former House speaker’s prospects in South Carolina. A case in point is a recent question-and-answer session hosted by Charleston Congressman Tim Scott and the College of Charleston, which attracted national news media and filled the venue’s seven hundred seats a full half hour before the event, forcing college officials to turn away many more. This was one of the largest turnouts for any Presidential campaign event in South Carolina so far in this cycle.
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