First it was Newt Gingrich, who told CNN's Piers Morgan Wednesday night that the upcoming South Carolina primary "is going to be Armageddon." Then it was former chairman of the GOP Michael Steele, who called S.C. a "bloodletting" as Republican rivals try to halt Mitt Romney's march toward the GOP nomination. On Fox, A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor of The Hill, said "It will be a bloodbath there."
GOP primary campaigns have a history of turning ugly once they reach South Carolina, and to hear the media and candidates tell it, this year is no exception. The intensity of campaign attack ads on both sides is picking up, and campaigns and super PACs are pouring in millions of advertising dollars into South Carolina.
But, will South Carolina really be the political "bloodbath" that everyone is predicting? Or is the media trying to hype up the race in the state in order to drag out a race in which Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee is a foregone conclusion?
As the first southern primary in a state known for conservative positions on social issues, South Carolina is indeed a signficiant test for Mitt Romney and his traction amongst more traditional conservative circles. But, this primary is hardly the "game-changer" the media has been suggesting. The incresased aggressiveness of the candidates' South Carolina campaign ads are more a sign that the remaining candidates are becoming increasingly desperate to stay in the race than an indication that Romney is in serious trouble.
Will Gingrich and Rick Santorum fare better in S.C. than they did in New Hampshire? Almost certainly. But, Romney is still ahead in the most recent polls and remains the favorite to win the nomination.
Yes, the campaigns are spending big in S.C. On Monday alone, a powerful pro-group spent $2.3 million on ads, while a pro-Gingrich group committed $3.4 million to run commercials there. Words like "bloodbath" and "Armageddon" may serve to prolong and keep the public's attention in the campaign horserace. But, the escalation of rhetoric will likely have little bearing on the outcome of the primary.
Here's a great bit on The Daily Show last night, in which Jon Stewart mocks the media-hype surrounding South Carolina. As we brace for Hurricane Newt, I'm predicting this will be more of a Category 2 than a Category 5 storm.
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