Ahead Of Primary, Romney Campaigns In S.C.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigned in South Carolina Wednesday, just days ahead of Saturday's primary. Audie Cornish talks with NPR's Scott Horsley for more.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

South Carolina holds its presidential primary Saturday. And polls released today show that Mitt Romney continues to run ahead of the Republican pack, but his lead is narrowing, and Newt Gingrich appears to gaining ground.

NPR's Scott Horsley has been following Romney as he travels around South Carolina. And he joins us now from Rock Hill. Hello, Scott. Can you tell us is Romney hearing footsteps behind him?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, Audie, he may be. You know, Romney typically keeps his eyes on the finish line and leaves it to surrogates to go after his primary rivals. But today in South Carolina, some of the attacks on Newt Gingrich came out of Romney's own mouth. He mocked Gingrich for saying during a debate here the other night that as a congressman, Gingrich had helped lay the groundwork for millions of new jobs in America.

Government doesn't create jobs. It's the private sector that creates jobs.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MITT ROMNEY: Congressman taking responsibility or taking credit for helping create jobs is like Al Gore taking credit for the Internet.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HORSLEY: The Romney campaign has also been aggressive today with emails and conference calls attacking the former House speaker. So even though polls suggest he still has the lead here, it seems Romney is trying to close off any last-minute surge by Gingrich.

CORNISH: And, of course, Newt Gingrich has been pretty aggressive in knocking Mitt Romney. Is it actually having any effect?

HORSLEY: That's right. Gingrich has been trying to rally conservative voters behind him, saying if Romney is the nominee, he won't be able to draw the same kind of contrast with President Obama.

The polling suggests Gingrich may have taken a little support away from Rick Santorum. But in general conservatives still seem to be splitting their votes. And I have to say, Romney drew a respectable crowd today in Spartanburg, a fairly conservative part of the state, so he may be winning folks over. While I was there, a supporter gave me a bag of Grits for Mitt...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HORSLEY: ...which is a, I guess one sign of Southern acceptance. On the other hand, when I got back to my car after that rally, I found a flyer on the windshield saying: Romney is not a trusted conservative. An unsigned flier, I should say. So that's the bare-knuckle politics we come to expect here in South Carolina.

CORNISH: So how much of what you're hearing in South Carolina is intra-party squabbling? I mean, are Republicans managing to keep an eye on President Obama?

HORSLEY: Yes. Even as they duke it out amongst themselves, the Republicans tend to reserve most of their punches for the incumbent. That's certainly true of Mitt Romney. And President Obama gave the GOP another opening today when his administration formally rejected that controversial Keystone pipeline that would've linked Canada to the Gulf Coast.

In a written statement, Romney said that decision showed a lack of seriousness about bringing down unemployment, and he accused the president of kowtowing to environmentalists in his political base. Now, of course, in its own defense, the White House says it was congressional Republicans who put such a tight timeline on the Keystone decision that there was really no way for the State Department to conduct a thorough environmental review.

CORNISH: NPR's Scott Horsley. He's traveling with Mitt Romney in South Carolina. Thanks so much, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome, Audie.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.