The South Carolina Primary may decide the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential race. The Republican Party may unite behind Mitt Romney, or it may implode under the weight of conservative division and infighting, rendering its candidate impotent against the waiting Obama juggernaut.
If Romney emerges the clear winner after Saturday’s primary, it may be time for the other candidates to pack it up and help their party heal by coalescing around their presumptive nominee. Romney may not be conservative enough for evangelicals, but he may be the most conservative candidate they can muster and still have a chance to defeat President Obama in November. On the other hand, if Romney tries to court the far right wing of his party too strongly, he may alienate moderates among the Republican establishment that have come to prop him up as their man. Pandering to evangelical voters also gives candidate Obama fodder for ads and material during the upcoming debates that could pull essential support from so-called “Reagan Democrats” and Independents on the national level into the Obama camp. President Obama may also have the upper hand when he forces Romney to defend his record as a venture capitalist while he was with the firm Bain Capital, a record which makes Romney look like an elitist member of the 1%, while Obama can champion himself as defender of the middle class and guardian of “the 99%,” a term that has been used by the Occupy Wall Street movement to describe the majority of Americans left in the lurch when the Bush economy collapsed, ushering in the Obama presidency.
Conservative ideology versus electability: that is the choice facing South Carolina primary voters on January 21, 2012. They must decide if a fractured party unhappy with a moderate-to-liberal Romney can unite behind someone that truly reflects their values, or they may have to place their hopes in a President Romney that they want pull a further to the right once he has taken the oath of office. The biggest challenge for the Republican Party in its quest to make President Obama a one term president is to convince the entire American electorate that whoever they nominate is the best choice for the nation as a whole.