SC's reputation for picking presidents gets dented

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) - South Carolina voters are on the brink of losing their reputation for correctly picking the Republican nominee for president.

Since 1980, Palmetto State voters have accurately chosen the eventual Republican nominee. Three decades of tradition are about to fall as Newt Gingrich is planning to drop out of the race.

In January, voters sent Gingrich to an overwhelming win over Mitt Romney in the first-in-the-South primary despite the fact Romney entered that critical primary vote with a commanding lead in the polls.

However, Gingrich is expected to drop out of the race by mid-week, which will end South Carolina's streak of picking the eventual GOP presidential nominee.

The state has long been considered a barometer for how the candidates will fare elsewhere.

"We had a great run and we've got a great motto. We do pick presidents," said Chad Connelly, chairman of the South Carolina GOP. "We have a 30-year track record. Having one time out of those 6 or 7 is really an anomaly."

The blip on the radar is no reason for concern according to state party leaders, who put significant time and effort into maintaining the state's first-in the-South status when Florida tried to jump ahead of South Carolina on the early-voting calendar.

South Carolina 's small size and less expensive media markets give candidates a chance to buy up cheaper television and radio spots in bulk and go border-to-border to greet potential voters face-to-face.

"Anybody can compete," said Connelly. "So South Carolina's not going to lose its pop in the national narrative. There's no way."

As Mitt Romney assumes the role of the eventual Republican nominee to square off with President Barack Obama, political analysts are quick to point out that, right now, fewer people are concerned about who won the South Carolina's January vote and more are worried about who can get people back to work.

"The economy's going to be dominant in the election one more time," said Dr. Bob Oldendick, executive director of USC's Institute for Public Service and Policy Research. "But, underneath that there's the suspicion of who can get the government working again?"

During South Carolina's primary season, the GOP candidates got the state's economy working. South Carolina Republican party officials estimate the primary run pumped more between $40-50 million into the state.

"It's just too important in the process and I think the nation understands our role," said Connelly. "A lot of other states understand we've got a time-honored tradition."