Romney’s Rivals Fizzle in South Carolina

Different state, same old story. And Mitt Romney is smiling.

Even before the first votes of this nomination fight, the Republican presidential rivals to Mr. Romney were pointing to South Carolina. Iowa would be a scrum, they explained, and New Hampshire a foregone Romney conclusion. But South Carolina, well . . . watch that space. The Palmetto State would be the opportunity for one candidate to break out, unite all those South Carolina conservatives, and make this a race.

Someone might want to tell South Carolina. For all the bickering among the campaigns about how real Mr. Romney’s lead is here, there is one polling fact that is undeniable: No one Romney opponent is breaking out. The non-Romney vote is as split as ever, and for that the non-Romneys have only themselves to blame. They’re botching it.

Some 30 years after Ronald Reagan assembled his winning coalition, the task of any candidate who wants to unite conservatives remains largely the same: Run on a message that brings together economic libertarians, defense hawks and social conservatives. That’s the game here, the first-in-the-South primary, a state with sizable contingents of limited government, military and evangelical voters.

Wall Street Journal
1/17/12