Republican candidates are crisscrossing South Carolina ahead of the Jan. 21 primary.
For Mitt Romney, it's a chance to clinch the nomination. A third straight victory following the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary would all but coronate him as the man to face President Obama. History is on his side: every candidate who has won South Carolina has gone on to be the party's nominee.
For Romney's competitors, it's a final chance to paint themselves as the Romney alternative. While Romney continues to be the Republican frontrunner, the electorate remains cool towards him, with as many voters saying they'd prefer "someone else" as there are voters supporting him, according to a recent CBS poll.
Social conservative leaders from across the nation will meet in Texas this weekend to try and agree on a Romney alternative to coalesce around.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm surrounding Romney's candidacy, a growing sense of inevitability has brought many in the party to his defense as Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have have increased attacks against him.
Gingrich and Perry have focused largely on Romney's time at Bain Capital, alleging that he his misrepresenting his time there--portraying himself as a job creator--when in actuality he laid off thousands while filling his own pockets.
Several prominent Republicans have rushed to Romney's defense, accusing Gingrich and Perry of providing Democrats with ready-made attacks on Romney for the general election, as well as contradicting the strong value many Republicans place on free-market capitalism.
"We have a real problem when we have Republicans talking like...Democrats against the free market," South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday night during a campaign event for Romney. "We believe in free markets."
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