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      So far a slow start to the 2012 campaign

      Newt Gingrich / FILE

      COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- Republicans in South Carolina -- the first-in-the-South primary state -- aren't too enthusiastic about the crop of GOP presidential candidates. But they are fired up about defeating President Barack Obama and confident a Republican can.

      An anti-Obama fervor has energized and helped unite a Republican Party that three years ago was disillusioned and fractured after the Democrat's victory.

      Obama has turned into a common enemy for the GOP, bridging divides between the Republican establishment and tea partyers.

      But the White House and its allies are meddling from the sidelines with a good cop, bad cop routine as the GOP primary continues to unfold.

      A pro-Obama group is airing an ad in South Carolina that jabs Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

      Related Stories Romney returns to SC, to begin presidential campaign GOP presidential debate scheduled for Charleston Group airing anti-Romney ad in SC before campaign stop

      Obama praises Romney on health care issues and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman for his service as the Obama administration's ambassador to China.

      A safer strategy might call for Obama and his allies to stay quiet, save their money and let the Republicans bash each other. But the GOP rivals aren't doing much bashing in their slow-starting contest. So Democrats are filling the void.

      Is the drive to beat Obama so great that Republicans will support a nominee who may have serious flaws or doesn't strictly adhere to conservative principles?

      Yes, if recent American history and interviews with more than a dozen Republicans in South Carolina are any guide.

      What do you think about the 2012 presidential race so far? Leave your thoughts in our comments section below.

      (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)