Romney targets South Carolina vote
Republican presidential nominee front-runner Mitt Romney is bringing his promise of fixing the economy to South Carolina, where a primary victory would make him nearly unstoppable in his battle to be the man to challenge US President Barack Obama in November.
Mr Romney is trying to woo South Carolinians who cast ballots on January 21 after the narrowest of victories in Iowa and a solid win in New Hampshire, the first two states where voters chose a favourite candidate.
The 2012 campaign, which has been focused on the struggling US economy, will likely mark one of the most highly charged and deeply partisan elections in recent history.
Mr Romney has been saying that his experience in private business makes him the strongest Republican to challenge Mr Obama on the economy.
Voters could be receptive to that message in South Carolina, where the unemployment rate has not dropped below 9 percent in three years and a third of manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the last decade.
Mr Obama is vulnerable as he turns up his campaigning for a second term. The wobbly US economy, a ravaged housing market and stubbornly high unemployment have proven a major drag on his support.
The president is weighed down by an extremely slow recovery from the 2007-2009 recession. Voters blame that downturn on former President George W Bush but are judging Mr Obama according to his mixed record in turning things around.
Wednesday's events in South Carolina marked the unofficial start of a campaign that includes a pair of televised debates, millions of dollars in television ads and the first competition of the year in a southern state.
As Republicans stormed into the state, Mr Obama made a quick visit to his Chicago headquarters on Wednesday, preparing for his re-election fight and stocking up on campaign cash as he thanked hometown staffers.
Mr Obama told campaign donors that America was still dealing with a "difficult economy and that's why this is going to be a close race. I've got to tell you, if we weren't coming out of this extraordinary recession, I think the American people would make their decision very quickly".