CONWAY, South Carolina—Mitt Romney has found his stride in the Palmetto State, drawing enthusiastic crowds at two events in a state critical to his election.
Taking a break from campaigning in New Hampshire, Romney used a 20-hour swing here to try out a new focus on the National Labor Relations Board and the Obama administration’s loans to green energy companies — and it appears to be resonating.
The NLRB was involved in a much-decried lawsuit on behalf of the machinists union to prevent a new Boeing plant from opening in the state. The lawsuit has been withdrawn, but it’s still fresh in the minds of Republicans here.
They whooped and cheered when South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said she knew Romney would stop the NLRB from interfering with job creation in her state again.
Romney used the suit, and President Barack Obama’s decision to nominate three new members to the board in a controversial recess appointment, to attack the president’s leadership of the economy in broad strokes — drawing applause and agreement from the audience.
"This president doesn’t understand how this economy works, it’s time to get a president who does," he said.
When Romney attacked the president for being naïve about the economy, one woman nodded and said “well, I’ll say.”
Romney is now surging in South Carolina polls — thought to be his the only remaining obstacle in his path to the Republican nomination — rising to 37 percent among likely GOP primary voters in the state, according to a new CNN poll.
While Romney has doubled his support in the last month, Newt Gingrich has seen his support cut in half to 18 percent. Sen. Rick Santorum, fresh off a surprise strong showing in Iowa, is up to 19 percent from 4 percent last month.
But Santorum only poses a threat to Romney if he can raise doubts about his rival’s conservative credentials, though his light bank account and Romney’s new economic message are going to make that extremely difficult.