Cover Story: Countdown to SC Primary

ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - Campaign 2012 is heating up.  The first votes will be cast in just one week.  And then the attention will focus on South Carolina.

There are more than half-a-dozen candidates in the GOP race for president, but only one of them can win the nomination.  And the one who does will likely win South Carolina.

The Palmetto State has become a bit of a kingmaker for the Republican Party.  South Carolina has correctly picked the GOP's eventual nominee for the last 32 years.

So while what happens in Iowa next week and New Hampshire (the week after that) is important, South Carolina is the one to watch.

The Christmas season may be over but the political season is just heating up.

A week from Tuesday is Iowa.  Followed by New Hampshire.  And then eleven days after that South Carolina.

"I almost consider myself a resident here."  That's Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who's spent more time in Iowa than any candidate.

He's been to South Carolina 25 times, but has yet to break out of the single-digits.

In the lead nationally and in South Carolina is Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker is up 16-points over Mitt Romney.

Gingrich, who used to draw just handfuls at his South Carolina rallies, now is packing them in, as he did in a town hall in Columbia two days before Christmas.

"Newt would probably be the man I would vote for," said voter Dailor Fowler of Rock Hill.

The candidate with the most cash is Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor has raised more money than all of the other declared Republican candidates combined.

Romney hasn't spent much time in South Carolina, but won a crucial endorsement two weeks ago from the state's governor Nikki Haley.

"Gov. Romney is the one person President Obama continues to go after over and over and over again.. What does that tell you I think he is a little bit scared I think he is a little bit scared of this governor," said Haley.

With all the attention on Iowa now historically a victory in Iowa does not guarantee lasting success in the race for the GOP nomination.

But no one has ever won South Carolina without winning either Iowa or New Hampshire first.  And no candidate has ever won the Republican nomination without winning South Carolina.

Democrats and independents can vote in the GOP Primary in South Carolina.

With voters candidates have a lot of ground to make up over these next several weeks.

"I'm going for the most conservative person out there. I haven't decided yet. Still undecided? Still undecided."

"Everybody has promises and what they're going to do and what they plan to deliver. You just have to follow your own heart and make your own decisions."

Because Florida pushed up its primary the three early presidential contest states pushed up their starting dates to begin right after New Year's Day.

The South Carolina Primary is just three weeks from this Saturday.

In the next month the campaigns will be opening offices, hiring workers and reaching out to potential backers.

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