In a race now void of Perry, the upcoming primary could go in any direction.
By Micah Hanks
After lagging behind for weeks now, an inevitable eventuality that so many saw already has crystallized just prior to the South Carolina primary. Today at 1 PM ET, Texas Governor Rick Perry is expected to make a formal announcement about his withdrawal from the Republican race for the GOP nomination.
Perry’s decision arrives just two days prior to the crucial primary in the Palmetto State, with sources citing “poor debate prep and infighting between his campaign staff members” among reasons for his lackluster performance among other GOP contenders. Perry is expected to endorse Newt Gingrich, having emerged early on as a fierce contender against Romney’s establishment presence.
But among his rivals, perhaps the chief issue had to do with Perry’s inability to close the deal among Christian Conservatives in states like South Carolina. Despite obvious concern pertaining to Romney’s “flip-flopping” in days past, the now two-time Presidential hopeful will no doubt find a similar point of mistrust among southern evangelicals on account of his Mormon faith; in all likelihood, Santorum and Gingrich, who have both shown increases in numbers leading up to the South Carolina Primary, will face similar struggles coming from Catholic backgrounds.
Meanwhile, a recount in Iowa has flipped the previous results of an already tight election win for Mitt Romney, now showing Santorum leading Romney by 34 votes. Setting the score one-to-one, this all comes amidst new reports that Iran is now believed, with greater certainty than previous estimates would allot, to possess materials needed for the construction of a nuclear weapon. Thus, Ron Paul, whose previous performances in Iowa and New Hampshire helped lift him from the doldrums of the fringe and into the role of a serious political contender, may continue to cause wariness among southerners in the coming primary—and despite his own fundamentalist religious background.
Perhaps this is good, however, since the focus among 2012 GOP candidates is being forced into a balancing act, of sorts, where potential voters are being required to weigh values alongside substance in each of their candidates. Regardless of their religious backgrounds, people have enough concerns elsewhere in the instances of policy, as well as personal ethics; an area sure to become rockier for Gingrich following the release of a new interview with his former wife Marianne, who has stated that Gingrich advised she must “share him” in what would amount to being “an open marriage.” Foreign policy will no doubt continue to dog Ron Paul among the core conservative voters, though in a primarily evangelical state, Perry’s withdrawal will certainly provide a small boost to one or more of the “anti-Romney” candidates.
Despite the numbers, there are plenty of variables still capable of splitting South Carolina in a number of potential directions. While the election could go virtually any way, that presently unforeseeable result may shape the weeks to come as we move closer to Super Tuesday.