By Andrei Ptasnikov
Saturday’s primary ballot in North Carolina, one of the most Republican-friendly U.S. states, will turn yet another page in the nearly ten-month-long U.S. presidential race. Local analysts, who have been closely watching the campaign, are unanimous in seeing the North Carolina primary as a crucial milestone with fewer Republican hopefuls expected to make it into the next round.
This week, the number of candidates has dropped from six to four after former Utah governor and former U.S. ambassador to China John Huntsman and incumbent Texas governor Rick Terry walked out of the race. The upcoming South Carolina ballot may raise the stakes for the Republican’s front-runner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who won the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries and who is leading opinion polls in North Carolina, although the gap between him and his rivals has shrunk by 10% to 23% since last weekend. Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, who looked the best during Thursday’s debate in North Carolina, comes second in the polls and is eager to outscore Mitt Romney.
“South Carolina on the 21st is unbelievably important. Romney, although he has yet to get anywhere close to a majority, I mean by 3 to 1 Republicans in Iowa voted against him, by 2 to 1 Republicans in New Hampshire voted against him. Nonetheless, he can claim he won both. If he wins here, he has enormous momentum. In order for the nomination process to go to a conservative, I have to beat Romney on the 21st.”
Romney’s rivals are pouring down even more criticism on him than on President Barack Obama, constantly reminding him of his “I like being able to fire people” phrase and accusing him of failing to disclose his tax records. Romney is holding the fort:
“When it comes to the economy, my highest priority as President will be worrying about your job, not saving my own.” e won both. If he wins here, he has enormous momentum. In order for the nomination process to go to a conservative, I have to beat Romney on the 21st.”
In short, it’s the way it’s always been: mutual recriminations between the candidates, charming smiles and lots of promises, most of which will hardly ever be fulfilled. And it will go on like that for six months until late August when the Republican National Convention chooses a single candidate for president.