Looking ahead to Florida and South Carolina Primaries

After a surprise surge by Santorum in the Iowa Caucus, and a strong second place by Ron Paul in the New Hampshire Primary results, what other surprises could occur in the Florida and South Carolina GOP Presidential Primaries?  As shown the in map above, the answer could lie in the large veteran vote in both Southern states (the large white area in Florida consists mostly of the sparsely inhabited Florida Everglades.) CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE.

In the 1988 presidential campaign, George H.W. Bush criticized Massachusetts "Liberal" Governor Michael Dukakis for having "foreign-policy views born in Harvard Yard's boutique." 

Fast forward to 2012, and now  the nearly identical claims are being made against "Massachusetts Moderate" Mitt Romney by Newt Gingrich.  Like Dukakis, Romney also graduated from Harvard Law School.  The reference to Harvard by Bush was to imply a certain degree of liberal elitism on Dukakis.  

Now, Gingrich is implying a certain degree of elitism on Romney with his attacks on Romney's career with Bain Capital.  Not to be out done with the elitist implications, Texas Governor Rick Perry has also referred to Romney's Wall Street career as "vulture capitalism." 

But Perry, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, can hammer Romney on one more issue that Gingrich can not - military service.  The most amount of damage that Perry could do to Romney in South Carolina and Florida is to point out again and again that Romney avoided the military draft for five years during the Vietnam War through a series of student and controversial Mormon ministerial deferments through the late 1960's.  After those deferments ran out, Romney was eligible and registered for the draft in 1970 - but was not called.

Attacking Romney is one thing, translating Romney's, Gingrich's, and Santorum's lack of military service into votes for Perry is another.  Perry would have to shave two points from each of those candidates in order to finish in the double digits.

Looking at polling trends, Rick Santorum suffered the sharpest decline in the South Carolina Republican Primary polls where he once enjoyed a Rassmussen Poll high of 24% in South Carolina just after statistically tying Romney in the Iowa Caucuses.  Santorum's polling numbers have dropped 10 points in less than a week to 14% in a recent Insider Advantage poll conducted on January 11, 2012.

As Santorum continues to hemorrhage socially conservative voters, the contest will be between Gingrich and Perry to pick up those Santorum voters.  It is within that micro-contest where Perry's military service could give him an edge over Gingrich and push Perry into a double digit finish in South Carolina.

Ron Paul, a U.S. Air Force flight surgeon from 1963 to 1968, already enjoys overwhelming support from active and retired military voters who donate to his campaign at a 4 to 1 ratio over Romney.  Ron Paul's lowest poll was at 9% in a PPP South Carolina poll conducted January 5-7, 2012.  After his strong showing in the New Hampshire Primary results, Ron Paul's numbers rose to 13% in an Insider Advantage poll conducted on January 11, 2012.  Ron Paul's military service could help him shave fiscally conservative military veteran voters from both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Romney dropped 14 points from a CNN Poll high of 37% on January 5, to an Insider Advantage Poll low of 23% on January 11.  This puts Romney neck-and-neck with Gingrich at 21% on January 11.  Rick Perry remained steady at 5% throughout the same polling time period across different South Carolina polls.  If Gingrich wins the South Carolina primary, Ron Paul places third behind Romney, and Perry finishes in the double digits, while Santorum finishes in the single digits, that would be the South Carolina surprise going into Florida.

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