Heading into SC Primary, GOP Race Heats Up

Heading into Thursday night’s South Carolina debate hosted by CNN, the GOP presidential candidate race experienced a change in dynamics.
Heading into SC Primary, GOP Race Heats Up
Texas Governor Rick Perry announces he is suspending his campaign as a Republican presidential candidate, Jan. 19 in Charleston, S.C. Perry went on to announce his endorsement of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. (Miladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)
<a><img class="size-large wp-image-1793118" src="https://www.theepochtimes.com/assets/uploads/2015/09/Perry_137343787.jpg" alt="Texas Governor Rick Perry" width="590" height="417"/></a>
Texas Governor Rick Perry

Heading into Thursday night’s South Carolina debate hosted by CNN, the GOP presidential candidate race experienced a change in dynamics, with announcements of Rick Perry dropping out, Santorum declared the real winner in Iowa, and a listless Newt Gingrich in New Hampshire surging in the polls in South Carolina.

In a continuation of swings and roundabouts in the 2012 GOP race, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Jan. 19 that he was suspending his campaign for candidate, and endorsing Newt Gingrich.

Speaking at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., Perry said there had been “no viable path forward” for his campaign but he would continue to work for the Republican cause.

“I’m not done fighting for the cause of conservatism,” Perry said. “As a matter of fact, I have just begun to fight.”

Perry entered the race in August and immediately did well in the polls.

But the rise of other candidates, like Herman Cain, then Newt Gingrich, plus a series of awkward moments—particularly in debates—left him lagging behind in support.

After a poor performance in Iowa, Perry declared he would return to Texas and think about the next move, raising expectations that he would call it quits then. But instead, he continued his campaign in South Carolina, where earlier this week he described himself as “the only true Washington and Wall Street outsider left in the GOP race.”

Gingrich Gains

Unable to gain traction in the largely conservative state, Perry remained in single digits and fifth in the polls earlier this week.

Jennifer Marsico, political analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, says Perry was really not “sparking” in South Carolina and suggested he might have been advised to leave to support the other candidates.

“There might have been pressure on him to exit the race so his votes could go to either Gingrich or Santorum, so a Romney candidacy would be not be inevitable,” she told The Epoch Times.

In endorsing Gingrich, Perry did not shy away from conservative concerns about the former House speaker, saying “Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?”

But, in a side swipe to Romney, he made it clear that he thought Newt Gingrich most closely represented his views.

“I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform this country,” he said.

As if on cue, Newt Gingrich has surged in the polls with three out of five polls taken earlier this week putting Gingrich ahead of Mitt Romney, although still behind on average, 30.6 to Romney’s 31.8, according to realclearpolitics.com.

Santorum Wins

Rick Santorum, meanwhile, has been declared the official winner of the Iowa Caucuses after certified voting was finalized.

The announcement, although obviously more beneficial for Santorum had it been announced earlier, will add further fuel to the former Pennsylvania senator’s campaign after over 100 evangelical leaders declared support for him following a meeting in Texas last weekend.

“The narrative that Gov. Romney and the media have been touting of ‘inevitability’ has been destroyed,” Hogan Gidley, Santorum’s communications director, said in a statement. “Conservatives can now see and believe they don’t have to settle for Romney, the establishment’s moderate candidate.”

A further boost for Santorum came from James Dobson, the founder of a Colorado-based Focus on the Family ministry, who declared his support Thursday in a statement saying, “Santorum is the man of the hour.”

Perry Supporters Divided

Perry’s withdrawal made “one less podium” in the CNN television debate, due only hours later, and has opened the field further for the other candidates come the South Carolina primary this Saturday, Jan 21.

His endorsement will likely encourage the Gingrich team, many of whom, according to Jennifer Marsico, had started with Gingrich last year, jumping to Perry when he was on the rise and Gingrich was inactive, only to return to Gingrich after Iowa.

But Perry’s withdrawal may not transfer to Gingrich support, Marsico said.

“Even though the conventional wisdom is that a lot of Perry’s supporters would go to Gingrich—especially with Perry’s endorsement—the polls are not bearing that out.”

Marsico referred to a poll of Perry voters’ second choice of candidate, undertaken by Public Policy Polling since Dec. 23.

In that poll support was fairly evenly split between the other candidates, with 22 percent saying they would vote for Newt Gingrich, 20 percent for both Romney and Santorum, and 12 percent for Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

While there is a lot going on with his rivals, Romney is still ahead in the polls in Florida, the primaries due there Tuesday Jan 31. He will also be heartened by the latest endorsement from Perry supporter David Wilkins, a former U.S. ambassador and state speaker of the House.

“I think (Romney) is by far our best chance to take back the White House,” Perry told CNN, “With the economy like it is we need somebody with business experience. I think he can do more for America than anyone else.”