Still, others say that Romney shouldn't cut his losses just yet. One area where Romney could win over Perry in the months leading up to primary season is in the details, says Robert George, president of the American Principles Project. So far, most of the GOP candidates have been heavy on their limited-government, limited-spending rhetoric but rather skimpy on the particulars. As the 2012 primary draws nearer, candidates will be expected to clearly delineate what they would cut and why. "People are going to want specifics pretty soon from all the candidates, not just Romney. It's one thing to say, I'm for limited government, I'm for restricting the scope of government, and it's another thing to give the details," says George, adding that it will be important for Romney to state explicitly which federal departments and regulations he'd like to see go. Others, like Bachmann, Paul, and Perry, have already begun to make such targeted anti-federal-government pleas.
According to George, whose group is considered pretty conservative on the political spectrum, apart from "Romneycare," the former Massachusetts governor's overall record is more than acceptable for many Republican primary voters, even those in South Carolina and Georgia. Romney, says George, signed a pledge to defend traditional marriage, has staked out strong pro-life and limited government positions, and has exhibited impressive "turnarounds" in business and with the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics—all of which could help win over voters on the right. "It's almost always a mistake to underestimate one's own ability to make the case to conservative voters," he says. "Certainly, his policy positions are strongly conservative."
Also, if he can remain the so-called "establishment" pick, Romney would have the state's Republican primary voting history at his back, says GOP pollster Whit Ayres, who is working for former Utah Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman's 2012 presidential campaign. Though some would argue that the more conservative, out-of-the-box candidates are most electable in a state like South Carolina, Ayres recalls the "establishment" winners of the state's past four major GOP primaries—George H.W. Bush in 1988, Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000, and John McCain in 2008. "History suggests that the serious candidate with a long history of conservative accomplishments is usually the one that wins there, rather than the one who is trying to send a message or the one who is trying to shake up the establishment," he says. "Now, history is not destiny, and this year could be different, but the pattern in South Carolina is that a Mitt Romney or a Jon Huntsman kind of candidate is more likely to win than a Michele Bachmann or a Ron Paul, and it remains to be seen how Governor Perry positions himself."
Regardless of how things look now, Ayres says it's a serious mistake to make judgments yet about any primary, such as South Carolina, which is still as much as six months away. For Romney, then, and all others in the race, the southern states may be just as fair game as the rest.
Corrected on : Updated on 08/30/11: Romney’s campaign has announced that he has changed his schedule and will now be attending the Palmetto Freedom Forum event in South Carolina. “We’re pleased we were able to arrange our schedule so that Gov. Romney can attend Labor Day events in both New Hampshire and South Carolina,” Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul said in an E-mail to reporters on Tuesday afternoon.