You don’t have to travel to Iowa to glean the latest on the Republican contest for the presidential nomination. GOP politicians in the Carolinas are weighing in, trying to prove their relevance before the nomination is sewed up and endorsements no longer matter. Democrats look to control the narrative, in North Carolina anyway, as preparations begin in earnest for the 2012 convention in Charlotte. But to do it, they will have to cut through the noise of the contentious GOP contest.
On Tuesday, political observers will be watching the Iowa caucuses, where a confident Mitt Romney is polling close to top contender Ron Paul and the once-surging Newt Gingrich is losing support. Rick Santorum, with an appeal to the state’s religious conservatives, is experiencing his own surge and hoping for a miracle.
After Iowa and the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary, attention turns to South Carolina and its Jan. 21 primary, where Gov. Nikki Haley — a Tea Party favorite — has endorsed Romney, who supported her gubernatorial bid. Will a governor whose own popularity has dipped, primarily over charges of lack of transparency in state business, help a former Massachusetts governor’s chances in a state where he finished fourth in 2008? Gingrich hopes not. As his fortunes fade elsewhere and he failed to qualify for the primary ballot in his home state of Virginia, Gingrich has pledged to make a stand in South Carolina, where he still leads in polls. The winner of the South Carolina primary has captured the GOP nomination since 1980.
North Carolina GOP Sen. Richard Burr has given his endorsement to Romney, another sign that the Republican establishment is coalescing around the man they believe has the best chance to defeat incumbent President Obama. “Governor Romney is a strong leader with a proven track record of addressing the most pressing issues of our time — growing the economy and creating jobs for American workers,” said Burr in a statement. “I am proud to give him my support, and I am confident he will be our next president.”
Romney welcomed the support: “Senator Burr has been a consistent conservative who is committed to lowering taxes, abolishing unnecessary regulations, and restoring our nation’s fiscal health. With his help, I look forward to bringing my message of a ‘Simpler, Smaller, and Smarter’ federal government to voters in North Carolina and across the nation.”
Former N. C. Sen. Elizabeth Dole recently followed her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole, in his endorsement of Romney.
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post, The Root, NPR, Creative Loafing and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 on TV’s Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.