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There are a lot of conservative commentators and observers that I know who are saying Mitt's victory streak will end in South Carolina. They may be right, but I'm not so sure. The truth is that it could be, and whether or not it is may be out of Mitt's hands for the most part. Romney himself has acknowledged an "uphill climb" in South Carolina, and the conventional wisdom is true, the other three more conservative options - Perry, Santorum and Gingrich - all have their best opportunity to dethrone the Mitt coronation express there.
And they may. Splitting the conservative vote amongst them helps Romney, certainly, but there's a strong enough conservative base that Romney could be in trouble down there. But that is all contingent on Perry, Santorum and Newt actually sounding like conservatives. That's something that they have chosen not to do recently, and I think it is hurting them.
In fact, check out this report to see why the way they are attacking Romney is actually putting him in a position to endear himself to the very conservative voters the Ricks and Newt are trying to woo:
In a Wednesday morning interview with NBC's "Today Show," Romney pointed out that in New Hampshire, "the people who call themselves conservative or very conservative supported me by a pretty solid majority."
Asked about attacks on his business experience by his Republican rivals, Romney said he expected such attacks from President Obama. "But we didn't expect that Newt Gintrich and Rick Perry would become the witnesses for his prosecution, if you will. And I don't think it's helped them. And for them to attacking free enterprise and to suggest that people should have a limit to how much they can make and in their success, is something which the Democrats have talked about for years."
Romney said the numbers prove the tactic is not helping his Republican rivals gain support. "I think the evidence from N.H. last night, where the speaker and Rick Perry were both in single digits, suggests this kind of attack on free enterprise is simply not gaining traction for them," Romney told Fox & Friends Wednesday morning.
See what I mean? Do I think that Perry is more of a reliable conservative than Mitt Romney? Yep. But attacking Mitt from the left is not the way to prove it. I mentioned the day after New Hampshire that I had seen Sean Hannity rip into Rick Perry pretty openly about that tactic. And I think it's a big turn-off to a lot of free market folks on the right. Even using the Marx-invented word capitalism instead of free enterprise in these attacks reveals an almost say-anything, do-anything to stop Mitt strain that doesn't impress this conservative, and I doubt will impress others in South Carolina.
Also in the interview on NBC, Romney continued addressing Barack Obama as his opponent rather than his Republican rivals - a shrewd strategy that will also resonate with conservative voters in South Carolina:
Romney also criticized President Obama for trying to divide America by pitting the 99 percent against the one percent. "You've opened up a whole new wave of approach to this country that is entirely inconsistent with the concept of 'One Nation, Under God,' and the American people, I believe, in the final analysis, will reject it" he told NBC.
Romney added that Obama's "envy-oriented, attack oriented" approach will fail.
I agree with Mitt on this point. I always have. Conservatives understand that this campaign of Obama's is going to be about division and envy. We've gone from hope and change to divide and hate. It's going to be class warfare, it's going to be us vs. them, it's going to be "envy your neighbor and get yours from them." And that's because there is no record of substance for the president to run on. I'm glad that Mitt gets that and will consistently point that out to Americans because they need to see it. I would have thought that his three Republican opponents would have understood that too. But given that they're using that strategy themselves to try to slow Romney's march towards the nomination, it makes me question that a bit.
So if I could give any advice to these conservative challengers it would be to lay off the anti-wealth, anti-success, anti-free enterprise language and posturing. It's not productive and it's not going to work. You aren't going to convince conservatives that they need to see you as more conservative than your opponent when you're attacking them from the left.
So depending on the strategy of these so-called conservative alternatives in South Carolina, don't count Mitt out there just yet.