The attacks on Mitt Romney may be having a surprising effect that's the reverse of what his critics intended--causing more Republicans to rally around Romney as their choice for the GOP presidential nomination.
Some Republican leaders who haven't endorsed anyone in the GOP race say privately that Romney is almost certain to be the nominee, and his rivals are hurting his chances of toppling President Obama by emphasizing his vulnerabilities and echoing Democratic criticism.
"There may be a growing sense of, 'Let's cut to the chase and give our support to Romney,' and move on [to the general-election campaign against President Obama,]" says a prominent GOP strategist and former senior White House adviser to a Republican president. "If he wins South Carolina, it will be a dam break in terms of donors and endorsements."
South Carolina holds its presidential primary election a week from Saturday. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has already won the first two GOP nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, and if he captures the Palmetto State, he will have very strong momentum.
His rivals, especially former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, have been hammering at Romney over his role directing Bain Capital, a private equity firm. They say Bain used predatory business practices and hurt working people by terminating many of their jobs. Romney defenders say that he and Bain did nothing wrong, and were operating successfully in the free-enterprise economy.
Romney's defenders have included Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and commentator Rush Limbaugh, both of whom are leading figures among conservatives.