Romney adviser: We could lose South Carolina
January 20th, 2012
12:38 PM ET
10 years ago

Romney adviser: We could lose South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) - With Newt Gingrich creeping up in the polls and potentially on the cusp of a South Carolina victory, one of Mitt Romney's senior advisers sought to change expectations ahead of Saturdays' pivotal presidential primary.

Though his campaign has competed aggressively in the state and is hungry for a win here, Romney strategist Stuart Stevens said the idea of a loss to Gingrich on Saturday is not far-fetched.

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"Do I think we could lose South Carolina? Sure. Of course," Stevens told CNN after Thursday's presidential debate in Charleston.

"The very idea that we are sitting where we are two days before South Carolina, having won New Hampshire, having done very well in Iowa, and the question is 'Could Romney lose South Carolina,' is such an absurd question."

"The idea should be does he have a chance in South Carolina," Stevens claimed.

When it was noted that Romney had a 10-point lead over Gingrich as recently as Tuesday, Stevens shook his head.

"These things were always going to be close," he said. "I think it's very competitive. I think it's a four-way race. The whole race is very fluid."

The late effort to adjust Romney's prospects comes as public and private campaign polling shows a tightening race in South Carolina, following strong debate performances this week from Gingrich, several flubs by Romney on the campaign trail and Rick Perry's decision to abandon his White House bid.

Romney and Gingrich are now essentially battling one-on-one down the stretch, with Rick Santorum in third place.

"It's tight, it's real tight," said one Romney adviser who did not want to be quoted discussing internal poll numbers.

One trend has emerged in Romney's internal polling: a sharp gender gap between the two frontrunners.

Romney is holding onto a robust lead over Gingrich among female voters, but the flip side is also true - Gingrich is beating Romney among men.

A second place finish by the former Massachusetts governor in South Carolina would unquestionably be a disappointment for a campaign that was confident and riding high just last week after a decisive Romney victory in New Hampshire.

Romney has traveled around South Carolina with Gov. Nikki Haley at his side for two weeks, and the campaign has spent heavily on television, radio, mail and phone calls to targeted voters.

Haley radiated optimism on Thursday, telling CNN: "We are going to win South Carolina."

Another leading Romney surrogate, state treasurer Curtis Loftis, did not seem so confident at a campaign event on Friday.

"It has been a hard week," Loftis said at a rally in Gilbert. "Nobody is gonna deny that."

There are other signs that the Romney team is anxious.

The campaign added an extra campaign event in Greenville on Friday night - a late effort to hold down Gingrich's and Santorum's margins in the socially conservative and evangelical-heavy upstate.

Romney, meanwhile, is hoping to bank most of his votes along the more moderate coast, where the fiscal and military issues that Romney prefers to talk about on the stump predominate.

Behind the scenes, Romney advisers in Boston have been scrambling this week to halt Gingrich's renewed momentum.

After Gingrich shot up in the polls after Monday's debate in Myrtle Beach, the Romney campaign swiftly sharpened their attacks on Gingrich and arranged a series of conference calls with reporters to challenge the former House speaker's judgment and discipline.

Meanwhile, Missi Sousa, a staffer in Romney's political shop in Boston, blasted out a message Wednesday to campaign backers nationwide urging them to call into South Carolina and "turn out Mitt's supporters."

"Please get the word out to your personal networks," Sousa wrote in the email, provided to CNN by a Romney supporter in Columbia. "This is all hands on deck."

Romney campaign officials and surrogates also tried unsuccessfully this week to bring on several South Carolina business leaders and Republican fundraisers who were backing former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

But the Romney entreaties were rebuffed, multiple sources told CNN, and many of those Huntsman backers publicly endorsed Gingrich instead on Thursday.

Some of that movement can be attributed to veteran GOP strategist Richard Quinn, who worked for Huntsman but signed on with the Gingrich campaign on Thursday to assist with the final South Carolina push.

Also see:

Perry drops out, endorses Gingrich

Judge-drawn Texas redistricting map tossed out by Supreme Court

Gingrich releases 2010 federal tax records

Santorum tries to shoulder past Romney, Gingrich in debate

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (115 Responses)
  1. B

    Let us hope that he loses SC and Florida as it is obvious that he is attempting to BUY this election as he has Bought everything else in his life.

    This is exactly why people are in the streets now

    January 20, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Mittens needs to spend more money on attack ads. That's it Mittens, spend more on your attack ads against your republican opponents, as it worked for "W". If you are rich, it is the true conservative way to trash everyone who stands in you way. Right wingnuts are like sharks when there is blood in the water, it is a feeding frenzy.

    January 20, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. OnlyRonPaul

    How could they be that GD stupid down there in SC? Ron Paul people. Doesn't freedom even matter to you all?

    January 20, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  4. Omari Dice

    Remember Sarah Palin was at TAX DAY party rally? Im ensure Mitt holding his tax return by April TAX DAY TEA PARTY or April 1st – 2012 " FOOL day"on all of you!!

    January 20, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  5. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I've got a feeling that tax evasion is only a positive quality, a badge of honor, for wealthy republicans. The majority of Americans pay their fair share, and view Cayman activities negatively.

    January 20, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. v_mag

    We need to start talking about fixing this process. So far this time, it has given us a slew of unqualified and radical candiates. Iowa can't even hold an election where the votes get counted properly the first (or second) time. Why should they get to launch a candidate? Why not have all 50 states hold primaries on the same date? Isn't that democracy? Why should piddly little states pre-select who the rest of us can vote for? Why is everybody going along with this broken system given to us by the rich and their bought-and-sold politicians?

    January 20, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  7. Miguel

    I am one republican who will vote for Obama if Newt is our nominee. Newt is one slimy individual.

    January 20, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  8. Bessy

    AW !!!! Can't buy his way out of this one, huh ?

    January 20, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. sensible

    Romney(ouR money) is feeling the pinch after all the pressure to reveal his tax returns...... I wonder what he is hiding?

    January 20, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Losing South Carolina won't be anything compared to the loss that awaits you if you get the nomination Mittens.
    Obama 2012.

    January 20, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  11. Former Republican, but never again!

    Romney is a phony and people are beginning to recognize it.

    January 20, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  12. Peace

    I will be sad if Mitt will lose in S. Carolina. Newt does not deserve at all to win there. He is a big sinner and he has used all tricks to confuse people. As a woman I will never cast my vote to this bullying women person!

    January 20, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  13. Darth Romney

    Let's see,,, Bain buys Ampad for $5million,,, charges Ampad $2million per year for consultant fees for the next three years,,, then borrows, through Ampad $60million and pays it to Bain,,, then releases an IPO of Ampad with an initial share price of $15.34 per share,,, immediately sells 3 million shares for $50million,,, continues to take the $2million per year consultant fee for a couple more years,,, bankrupts Ampad,,, donated some shares to church to effectively erase capital gains on stock sale,,, they made at least $120million on a $5million investment and paid little or no taxes,,, all the people lost their jobs,,,, that's the dark side of capitalism

    January 20, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  14. chuck

    He looks wretched, I think he will lose SC-yuppers!!!!!

    January 20, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. ContrastandCompare

    Newt – proven record that fixed Washington and boosted our US economy.

    Romney (aka Money bags) – proven track record of running a liberial state, corporate raider (now disguised as a capitalist), and famous for running the Olympics (another liberial organization).

    Who do we need to go with.... Is there any doubt?

    NEWT 2012...



    January 20, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  16. WhereIsPalin

    Due to negative campaigning, people again are voting against a candidate instead of voting for a candidate. It just shows how bad the field is.

    January 20, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    Romney and Gingrich are now essentially battling one-on-one down the stretch, with Rick Santorum in third place.
    I thought the most recent SC polls announced just this morning show Paul in third, and Santorum in fourth.

    January 20, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  18. FrankinSD

    Romney COULD lose SC? Oh my gosh, am I shocked! He shouldn't be worrying about losing SC. The director of polling for Gallup says that his national lead is "collapsing." Moreover, the latest PPP poll says that he is no more likely (within the MOE) to defeat Obama than Gingrich would be. Those are the things he should be worrying about.

    January 20, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  19. westward

    Romney is folding like a house of cards, just like he did in '08. This guy has some issues, not just that his platforms don't help the middle class in any way. He's got some kind of mental thing going on. This guy has been campaigning for 20 years now. He won ONE single-term as governor of Mass. He didn't have enough support to run for a second term because he messed them up so bad. Yet he refuses to push himself on people in the most arrogant and non-helpful way. How are the middle class or seniors going to like you Mitt when you are trying to hurt them????

    January 20, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. jim

    Looking at the CNN poll showing Ron Paul as the preferred candidate for the GOP spot makes me wonder if the media will start to take him seriously. I hope so. I feel all major news media whether on the right or left are afraid of what he may bring and do to the status quo in Washington. I think the country needs what Ron Paul is offering. The only leader, not politician, among any of the candidates right or left.

    January 20, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. Mr. Wilson

    For guys like Miguel, "I am one republican who will vote for Obama if Newt is our nominee.", this is the reason why we need to dump the Citizens United ruling in the Supreme Court. The only way Newt is still around is because he has a super PAC that creates all of this opposition material for him, without his knowledge, of course (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more). Do you really think that he would still be around after Iowa without these groups?

    January 20, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  22. vatoloke

    The tax loopholes have caught up with Romney. Not cool when running for president.

    January 20, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  23. sensible

    Nikki Haley is sounding a lot more like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann recently. Maybe she is being 'home schooled' by 'the twitter quitter'!

    January 20, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. rs

    If Romney keeps yelling at people when they ask him what he might actually do for the Middle Class you bet he might lose. Unfortunately that leaves Newt and Santorum- neither of them has a prayer with Democrats or independents.

    January 20, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  25. westward

    Nobody wants what you are selling Mitt. You represent the 1%, go get their vote. But I doubt even they like you. You have nothing.

    January 20, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
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