Republicans Campaigning Hard In South Carolina

South Carolina is heating up and the polls have changed significantly in the past 48 to 72 hours.

Word is now that Romney is sitting in a 3rd place spot, he’s left South Carolina to focus on Nevada, story from CBS News:

Just a day after his big win in Michigan, Mitt Romney ceded South Carolina to his rivals.

“This is a state I’d expect that Sen. [John] McCain has pretty well wrapped up,” Romney told reporters at the Sun City Hilton Head Retirement Center in Bluffton. “It would be an enormous surprise if he were unable to win here.”

Romney’s South Carolina strategy amounts to being politically half-pregnant. He doesn’t want to raise expectations in a state he likely can’t win, so he’s dashing off to Nevada midday Thursday to compete in the lightly contested caucuses there Saturday. But at the same time, he doesn’t want to offend his supporters in South Carolina.

No surprise there, it’s not worth spending time in a state you aren’t coming anywhere close to winning. Romney has a much better chance in Nevada.

Fred Thompson has been rising in South Carolina, story from boston.com:

Fred Thompson, making what could be his last stand in South Carolina, has inched up to 4th in the latest tracking poll leading up to Saturday’s first-in-the-South primary.

Thompson has 14 percent in the Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released this morning, sliding ahead of Mitt Romney, who slipped to 12 percent, even though some of the polling was done after he won the Michigan primary on Tuesday.

I think South Carolina will be Thompson’s last stand if he doesn’t place in the top 2. Looks like he might manage 3rd but the momentum is heading his way. He has about 48 hours to continue this trend by going after McCain and Huckabee. We’ll see on Saturday if it’s proven to be enough.

Lastly, John McCain has been the target, as in 2000, of a Vietnam Veterans group attempting to tarnish his service record. Story from the Telegraph:

John McCain, the Republican presidential hopeful, has been accused of betraying fellow prisoners of war in Vietnam in what his aides say is a dirty tricks campaign.

A leaflet circulating in South Carolina, where the next Republican primary contest takes place on Saturday, raised the spectre of the “Swift Boat” campaign that helped to defeat John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election by questioning his courage in Vietnam.

It also served as a reminder of the vicious campaign Mr McCain faced in the same southern state before George W Bush defeated him in the 2000 primary, when shadowy groups claimed he had fathered an illegitimate black child and slandered his daughter.

Supporters of the Republican frontrunner issued a strong rebuttal of the leaflet, which was distributed by a group calling itself Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain but was also stamped “Swift Boat Vets for Truth” with a PO Box address in North Carolina.

Since John Kerry was “Swift Boated” in the 2004 election, these types of attacks have a serious meaning and can have a very negative impact if they stick.

McCain’s campaign has said the claims aren’t even remotely true and has sent out “truth squads” to counteract the claims.

Polls show Romney leading well in Nevada while South Carolina is shaping up to the McCain, Huckabee, Thompson battle. Since Thompson’s debate performance, he has indeed gone up 5 or 6 points in polls that have come out since then.