Dispatches from South Carolina

Rick Santorum in South Carolina. (Photo: Kris Van Cleave)

ABC7's Kris Van Cleave is in South Carolina covering the primary. Read his up-to-date dispatches here.And watch his video updates above.

1:53 p.m.: Media has gathered for Newt’s Townhall at the Cinema Room in Orangeburg. He’s supposed to be here at 2:30 for the hour long event.

From, the head of the South Carolina Republican Party Chad Connelly is predicting 460,000 voters will pull the lever on Saturday, an unusual day to vote Govenor Nikki Haley noted earlier today.

The Independent Mail of Anderson, SC reported Tuesday that if prediction comes true turnout will be about 3 percent higher than 2008. Twenty-five state delegates are the prize, the primary is open to all 2.7 million registered voted. Absentee voting will be done by 5 pm tonight. Polling places open at 7 am until 7 pm Saturday.

1 p.m.: At the Romney event this morning, Mitt acknowledged losing Iowa, joking that his reference to corn as being an “amber wave of grain” may have been the cause and has forced some retooling of his humorous “rhetoric.” Santorum says he received a voice mail congratulating him on Iowa from Romney and the two spoke by phone later last night.

We asked him if the win in Iowa would help him here, he said it would have been more helpful two weeks ago but he believes he will surprise people when the votes are counted--more from him on ABC7News at 5 and 6pm.

We’ve encountered a lot of voters who are undecided and trying to make up their mind. We’ve also talked to some Romney supporters who came down from North Carolina to help campaign out of concern of the Newt surge. So far only a few have given the allegations levied against Gingrich much weight, but in a tight race every vote counts. In fact, Santorum sounded empathetic towards Gingrich over the intense media coverage of his ex-wife’s allegations the Speaker asked for an open marriage.

12 p.m.: Romney’s message in Lexington County, with Governor Nikki Haley at his side, was jobs and his experience running things—running a business, running the Olympics in Utah, running the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Hundreds of supporters stood in unexpectedly cold weather in an unrelenting rain to hear the candidate try to rally voters.

Haley dismissed the Newt surge saying she’s not seen polls since last night and believes Romney distinguished himself as “the jobs candidate.”
We’re heading to a nearby Santorum event that was also scheduled for 11am, hoping to catch the tail end there…and hoping its indoors because the rain isn’t stopping.

9:45 a.m.: First thing we’ve learned this morning, the Ron Paul office staff shows up around 10am, which was a bit of a surprise when we swung by their campaign office in Columbia. They’ve been doing a daily phone bank from 10am until 9pm reaching out to voters. Also, it’s a little out of the way, but Columbia is great place to fill up, we’ve seen gas as low as 3.17 a gallon for regular.

All four of the candidates, plus Colbert/Cain have events today. The New York Times’ Nate Silver has an updated ‘projection’ for Saturday’s primary here—Gingrich has a 62% chance of winning—putting him at 35.4% of the vote, Romney close behind at 32.7% but only a 38% chance of winning the primary. Do we have a new frontrunner on primary day eve?

The Charleston paper, the Post and Courier, has endorsed Mitt Romney, as has Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

Yesterday was a crazy day in politics, look for it be a chapter (or several) in books about this year’s presidential campaign—a big name candidate drops out, a new winner in Iowa, Newt’s ex-wife’s interview and, oh yeah, a debate with a primary vote less than two days away. Can’t help but wonder what today brings.

Personally, I’m curious to see what the voter reaction is to last night’s debate and the Nightline interview. Will the allegations leveled by the former Ms. Gingrich slow the Newt Surge? Can Romney rally after a week of tepid debate performances? Who will the Perry supporters back? The countdown to the next stage of Vote 2012 has begun…