As one local political observer sees it, the South Carolina Primary on Saturday is make-or-break time for certain Republican presidential hopefuls.
“It’s going to be a proving ground for many of the candidates,” said Ethan Underwood, chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party. “Only a few can survive a poor performance [there].”
For the candidates, it’s been all South Carolina all the time since New Hampshire’s primary on Jan. 10.
Some began campaigning in the Palmetto State earlier, banking on a win to help boost poor performances in the first two contests.
But the field has narrowed from seven to four since the process began. Just former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and Newt Gingrich remain.
Michele Bachmann dropped out after the Iowa caucuses and Jon Huntsman suspended his campaign after his third-place New Hampshire finish. He has since endorsed Romney.
The latest candidate announcement came Thursday, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry deciding to drop out before the South Carolina primary and throw his support behind former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
However Bachmann, Huntsman and Perry remain on the South Carolina ballot.
Also still listed is Herman Cain, who bowed out before the elections began, following allegations of sexual harassment.
Underwood said Romney, the frontrunner, could survive even a last-place showing Saturday. But for Gingrich and Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, not finishing at the top could spell the end.
Underwood said Gingrich, who has placed a big focus on the Southern state, likely will fare well.
“I think Newt will do really well. He did great in the debate the other night,” he said. “Conservatives have lacked for so long someone who can articulate conservative principles.
“I think Newt has that gift. I think that’s his strong point.”
Still, the president needs to be able to carry the philosophical banner, as well as possess the ability to manage and run the federal government, Underwood said.
While he’ll be excited to have one candidate to get behind, Underwood hopes the race won’t end in South Carolina.
“I’m honestly partial to Georgia, so I’m hopeful the race will continue at least through Super Tuesday on March 6,” he said.
“We’ll have a very clear picture from there of who America wants to be the Republican nominee.”