South Carolina’s primary isn’t just the presumed last stand for the candidates who hope to stop Mitt Romney. It could also be the last stand for the Tea Party movement that was created to stop a candidate like Mitt Romney from ever getting the nomination in the first place.
A week out from votes being cast, the Tea Party shows no signs of coming together to stop Romney, who after all is the very architect of the type of health care law that helped bring tens of thousands out in protest in 2009.
Like they were in Iowa, Tea Partiers here are split among the several candidates vying for the title of anti-Romney and that means Romney has a path to victory right around them. And if the Tea Party fails to stop Romney, it will prove that the movement has failed to convert its electoral power in any real way beyond electing the 112th Congress (aka, The 9%).
A House Divided
At the back of Newt Gingrich’s first event following the New Hampshire primary in Rock Hill Wednesday, the Tea Party split that could be his undoing in South Carolina was on full display.
Gingrich has reached out to Palmetto State Tea Party groups, touting their support as a big part of the South Carolina firewall strategy he’s said has been at the center of his campaign plan all along.
But now that all eyes are finally on the state, few expect the Tea Party to win it for Gingrich — or anyone else, for that matter. Why? The insurgent movement that was the story of 2010 is split, deeply divided among Gingrich, Rick Santorum and to some extent even Romney. Not even Tea Partiers themselves expect their vote to push one candidate over the top.
In Rock Hill, near the North Carolina border, it was clear why. At the back of Gingrich’s big event stood Swain Sheppard and Paul Anderko, two leaders of GPS Conservatives For Action PAC, a Tea Party-leaning conservative activist group in Rock Hill. Both men were wearing Newt 2012 stickers, but Anderko is really on the fence (though leaning Romney). Sheppard likes Gingrich.
Though the pair agreed on politics enough to start an activist group together, their disagreements on the 2012 race are indicative of the wider conservative split in South Carolina.
On those nasty Bain Capital attacks, for example, Anderko said Gingrich should stop the rhetoric that Rush Limbaugh called anti-capitalist.
“I kind of agree with Rush,” Sheppard said. “As conservatives, our goal is to beat Obama…he is a socialist, period.”
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