After wintry weather in Iowa and New Hampshire, the GOP candidates move to the sunny South for the primaries in South Carolina and Florida. Here's where things stand for the remaining contenders.
Mitt Romney: Tea Party activists and Christian conservatives will have to learn to love former Gov. Mitt Romney if he wins in South Carolina. The Palmetto State is not Romney turf, but the traditional conservative vote still is divided four ways. Romney still has to walk the high wire without a net. Romney governed as a liberal in Massachusetts, ran as a conservative in 2008, and is running as a moderate this time. Most mobile presidential candidates wake up in the morning wondering where he is. When Romney wakes up he wonders what he is.
Ron Paul: Right now, Rep. Ron Paul helps the front-runner by dividing the anti-Romney vote. But the libertarian congressman is the only candidate besides Romney who has the money and infrastructure to go the distance. Soon, Paul will become a thorn in Romney's side as the Texan accumulates delegates and influence at the GOP national convention. If Paul and his supporters don't get what they want, he will run as the Libertarian Party candidate and kill Romney's candidacy in November. If Romney moves to the right on economic issues to appease Paul, President Obama will win re-election. The front-runner is dammed if he does and dammed if he doesn't.
Newt Gingrich: The former speaker must beat Santorum in South Carolina to stay in the race. If Gingrich does poorly in South Carolina and drops out of the race, it will be a blow to the Obama campaign. Gingrich is doing God's work by beating up Romney as a corporate predator and testing the president's campaign arguments against the former Massachusetts governor. When he beat up Romney for being a callous capitalist, Gingrich forced the former governor to awkwardly defend his tenure at Bain Capital and show voters that he doesn't have the common touch.
Rick Santorum: Former Sen. Rick Santorum must win conservative South Carolina to stop the Romney juggernaut. If Romney moves to the right to head off Santorum in South Carolina, the Massachusetts moderate weakens his position with the moderate suburban independents that will pick the next president in November.
Jon Huntsman: The former Utah governor bet everything on New Hampshire, finished third, and declared victory. If New Hampshire was a victory for Huntsman, he will consider his poor showing in South Carolina a minor setback. He's the guy who worked for Barack Obama and called him a "remarkable" president.
Rick Perry: Dead man walking. The Texas governor is the only American with the possible exception of former Vice President Dick Cheney who thinks we should put troops back into Iraq.
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