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Shifting Roles for SC Influentials in Final Days

Those in the field working hard, but others stay on the bench.

Movement could come fast and furious in the final days of the S.C. Primary as candidates work feverishly to lock in the endorsement of influential Republicans.

But those who could actually move votes remain hesitant.

The hunt is more important than in primaries past, as a shifting electorate finds it difficult to settle on a favorite while . And, as the high-profile Republicans wait, regional leaders were doing what they could to support their candidate.

For the SCGOP debate in Myrtle Beach four years ago, Sens. Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham were holding court in the spin room, pitching their candidate. Both have sat out this race, along with a majority of the GOP delegation in the U.S. House.

That hasn't stopped candidates and surrogates from working the phones, reaching out to these influential Republicans. 

"The only person thinking about endorsing anymore is me," said U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, a Charleston Republican who is getting lots of pressure from the candidates.

"I'm looking for someone to talk about America as a city on the hill. I'm looking for someone who can articulate a vision to restore confidence in a free market system."

And Scott apparently hasn't heard it yet.

U.S. Rep Joe Wilson of Lexington endorsed Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty early in the primary, but his candidate bowed out and he isn't endorsing anyone else.

Reps. Trey Gowdy and Jeff Duncan from the Upstate are also staying out of the primary, but are still fielding calls from surrogates anxious for their support.

For What It's Worth

In what appears to be a close election, every vote is going to count and voters may give a someone a second look when there is a local conservative they know standing beside the candidate. 

Or not, said Jeri Cabot, an adjunct political science professor at The College of Charleston.

"I don't think they persuade many voters," she said.

The high profile endorsements, like , will do more to increase Haley's national profile than it will bolster Romney among voters, Cabot said.

A flood of Statehouse endorsements, like , are valuable as a big number to show weight behind a campaign, but don't drive many votes individually. 

And they can't fix a struggling candidate.

On Monday, state Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Bonneau) withdrew his support for Perry. Patch was first to learn that Grooms was scheduled Tuesday to endorse former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

"Now is the time to get out and pass the baton to another leader who can take the message to the next level," Grooms said Monday.

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney is still crossing the state, introducing Perry to South Carolina voters, but he prefaces his comments with a dose of hard truth.

"The message is that they're afraid to vote for him because they worry he can't beat Obama," Mulvaney said. "That's the only concern they bring." 

Mulvaney said voters walk away convinced, but polls suggest those concerns still remain, even after weeks on the ground in South Carolina. 

Former Utah Gov. Jon , was another candidate who , including Attorney General Alan Wilson, former Attorney General Henry McMaster and the family of former Gov. Carroll Campbell.

McMaster served as a host at Huntsman events throughout the campaign cycle.

At , Huntsman playfully joked with McMaster about his Southern drawl, "I don't even need an interpretor when I hear you speak."

McMaster told Patch that surrogates like himself can introduce candidates like Huntsman. "Nobody forgets him," McMaster said.

Early in the campaign, , including Charleston billionaire Anita Zucker. A week before the primary, , the clear front runner. But after polling in a distant fifth, Huntsman dropped out of the race and endorsed Romney. 

Workhorse

Freshman state Rep. Peter McCoy (R-Charleston) is excited about former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. When he was running for the Statehouse in 2010, McCoy said he knocked on 7,000 doors.

"Everybody we talked to was worried about the economy and jobs," McCoy said. "That resonates in Newt's message."

State Treasurer , backing Romney at a time when his success in South Carolina was far from assured. 

"I've tried to be a workhorse," Loftis said Monday. "I see it as my job to make as many small meetings as I can. I'll go anywhere anytime and preach about transparency, accountability, good government and Mitt Romney."

Loftis said endorsements aren't as important as they used to be.

"That's why I knew if I was going to endorse, I was going to work. I'm not just going to show up on TV," Loftis said. "I had a lot of people say, 'I don't get it.' Now, everyday, a few people say, 'I get it.'" 

Others who have been working on the grassroots level for the party are cashing their chips in for their candidate.

On Monday night, Berkeley County Repubilcan Party Chair Tim Callanan resigned after three years to endorse Santorum. 

"The county party has rules, rules that I helped to draft and install, and they state that the chairman cannot endorse a candidate in a competitive Republican Primary," Callanan wrote in a letter to members.

"What I cannot live with is the realistic prospect of sitting idly by and doing nothing while the greatest nation in the world plunges into bankruptcy.” 

The last few years have brought a new breed of influential voters with the rise of the Tea Party. Leaders of the autonomous groups peppered throughout the state .

"These people you see here in this room, they're not your typical rally-goers," said organizer Joe Dugan. "These people in here are activists."

Loftis said he spent time speaking in support of Romney to several Tea Party groups.

"They could have been very unfriendly, but they were friendly," he said. "Now, did I walk away with every vote? No. But they were respectful and understood that this election is about sending Barack Obama home." 

And that may be the message that you get the most from S.C. Republicans who can influence primary voters. They may not be on the ground for a candidate for the Republican primary on Saturday, but they'll get off the bench on Jan. 22.

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