Romney May Be Cutting Losses in South Carolina 'Snub'

The more moderate Republican could have a tough time in the conservative South.

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GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney may already be cutting his losses in advance of the 2012 primary season. [See a cartoon gallery on the 2012 GOP presidential field.]

The Washington Post reported Thursday that the former Massachusetts governor won't be attending a South Carolina campaign event hosted by Sen. Jim DeMint, a top figure in the Tea Party movement and one of the most conservative members of Congress. According to the Post:

An aide to Romney, who has been dethroned as the GOP presidential nomination front-runner in recent polls by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said the former Massachusetts governor will spend time in New Hampshire instead but is not ignoring South Carolina, a crucial early primary state.

"He will be in South Carolina enough to show that he is the best candidate to beat [President] Obama on jobs and the economy," said spokeswoman Andrea Saul, adding that Romney will probably campaign in the state in September.

Romney visited the state a few times as a prospective candidate, but not since he announced his candidacy in June. His wife campaigned there in July.

While not totally ignoring the red state, it looks like Romney's got his sights set on more winnable territories like New Hampshire, especially now that Perry has entered the race. Perry, who announced his candidacy from South Carolina less than two weeks ago, is already edging out Romney in national polls, like one released Wednesday by Gallup, and appears to be gaining more momentum in the South. [See photos of the 2012 hopefuls on the campaign trail.]

Romney has been pegged as more moderate than other Republicans in the race, like Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. And both his Mormon roots and the healthcare plan he backed in Massachusetts as governor—often compared with President Obama's healthcare law—could give him problems with the conservative, largely evangelical Republican base in South Carolina.

So, if and when Romney does spend time in South Carolina, it would indeed likely be to convince voters that he's the best hope to beat President Obama in the general election. But for Tea Party conservatives, who have consistently expressed that they want nothing less than a staunch conservative, that argument may not cut it for the primary.