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Has The 'Magic' Left S.C. Presidential Politics?

State GOP chairman says Palmetto State's "first in the South" primary shouldn't be in jeopardy despite backing the wrong 2012 candidate.

Newt Gingrich appears for the Republican nomination for president, and the end of his campaign will also usher in the end of an era in South Carolina politics. 

For the last 30 years, the winner of the South Carolina Republican primary has gone on to win the GOP nomination.

The state's predictive powers led Gingrich to rest the hopes of his faltering campaign on the South Carolina contest, projecting a victory in the race if he could reel in the Palmetto State.

Gingrich went on to o in January, only to win only one more primary contest (his native Georgia) amid dozens over the next three months. 

Ultimately, it was Rick Santorum's conservative bona fides that served as more of a threat to the establishment-backed Romney. 

The state's track record has also led to a powerful marketing presence for the SCGOP within the conservative community. 

"In South Carolina, we pick presidents," the party boasted as the primary neared. 

No more, say some. 

Brent Nelsen, a political science professor at Furman University in Greenville, said the allure of South Carolina, which otherwise only touts a modest delegate count, has suffered from Gingrich's precipitous fall. 

"South Carolina picked the horse that finished a very distant third," Nelsen said. "The magic is gone." 

While the impressive streak may have come to an end, SCGOP Chairman Chad Connelly said he doesn't think that will translate into the state party losing leverage when it comes to maintaining an early "first in the South" primary. 

"We have a 30-year track record that's kind of unparalleled and unique," Connellly said.

"That's something that is hard to do. And really, this was just a very different year."

The South Carolina primary's marketability won't suffer, Connelly predicted. 

"We're a small state, so a candidate can come in here and compete and they don't have to be super well-funded. Media markets are small enough that they can come in and compete. That's part of our attractiveness," Connelly said. 

Dana Eiser, a former Gingrich staffer in the Lowcountry, chalked up the streak's end to an anomaly. 

"There's a first time for everything," Eiser said. 

Don't count Robert Oldendick, executive director for the University of South Carolina's Institute for Public Service and Policy Research as one of those who is as dismissive of the effect this year's primary could play on the state's electoral legacy. 

"If you say 'going back to 1980' it sounds impressive; but when you realize that this encompasses eight contests it is  less impressive - and three of these (1984, 1992 and 2004) involved Republican incumbents in which the primary "challenges" were not that meaningful," Oldendick said. "More important to me is the likelihood that Florida will aggressively challenge for 'first in the South' status.  If Romney is the incumbent, this is unlikely to be a major concern in 2016, but if Obama is re-elected this will be a significant issue."

JoSCh April 26, 2012 at 12:30 PM
There is a culture here in South Carolina that not only allows but increasingly promotes radicalization and divisiveness. I was honestly surprised Santorum didn't win here, his dystopian world view fits perfectly. I guess they were more interested in backing a perceived "winner" to keep the streak alive but couldn't accept the relatively moderate Romneybot.
Debra Foshee April 26, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Agreed, JoSCh - I'm disappointed that SC voters are so bitter and divisive. I hope the SC democrats, and those that are undecided, help the country get back on track and re-elect Obama. He has made good on his promises and he will do even more, if re-elected.
Tom Gallagher April 26, 2012 at 05:41 PM
The overall poltical retardness of this state s why they can't pick a winner. The idiots that voted for Trikki Nikki got what they deserve with Governor full of crap. the truth is most of her winning was purchased but alot of politically stupid people (most Republicans and Teabaggers are of this group) Vote on rhetoric and lies - facts and figures NEVER come into play when these morons cast a vote, unfotunately we all must live with their choices and the country and states suffer. These are the folks that feel the need to vote party lines - Please do us all a favor and stay home - The real Americans that care enough to compile facts and know the issues are suffering because of YOUR stupidity and laziness. Gingrich, Really - santorum, give me a break - Romney ? why would ANYONE vote for this Gizzilionaire clown, he doesn't even know what party he's in. His wife knows it's "their turn" to be in the White House though, what do they think the Presidency is a flippin' prize? Oh yeah, The Governor under Federal and state investigation for felonious acts endorsed him right before she jetted off on her book tour and gave the okay to spend another 5 million of OUR tax dollars to fight voter ID non law that can't be won in Federal court. The law that says folks who have voted for years now CAN'T because they don't have a picture ID - The folks that take voting seriously and KNOW who and what they cast for - Not just who makes the most right wing BLUSTER.
SDR April 26, 2012 at 10:51 PM
This little rant says more about you than SC.
John H April 28, 2012 at 11:58 AM
I think it’s ironic that the much maligned governor, at least in this forum, backed the eventual nominee first. Very interesting.

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