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A win in NH doesn't guarantee success in SC

The circus is coming to town.

No donkeys will be part of the traveling show, but there will be more than a few elephants on hand when New Hampshire wraps up its primary today and attention shifts to South Carolina's first-in-the-South Republican Party primary on Jan. 21.

Meeting or surpassing expectations in New Hampshire could give a candidate new life here in South Carolina.

Failing there could mean the candidate won't get a chance to compete in the S.C. primary whose winner has, since 1980, gone on to win the GOP nomination.

Dave Woodard, a political scientist at Clemson University, said none of the candidates should assume that winning New Hampshire today means an automatic win will follow here in the Palmetto State.

"How people do in New Hampshire has not generally had an effect in South Carolina, except maybe to motivate people," Woodard said.

Indeed, only one of the past three contested GOP primaries has seen a single candidate follow a New Hampshire victory with one in South Carolina.

In 2008, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona won both primaries on the way to the GOP nomination.

In 2000, McCain took New Hampshire but the Palmetto State went to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

In 1996, television commentator Pat Buchanan defeated U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas in New Hampshire, but South Carolina went for Dole, the party's eventual nominee.

Recent polls show former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney far ahead in New Hampshire. For him, New Hampshire is an exercise in managing expectations.

Win big, and the commentary will be that, well, he was governor of neighboring Massachusetts, and he was far ahead in the polls.

Squeak by, and the air of inevitability that has surrounded Romney's second quest for the Republican nomination could be punctured.

Consecutive wins are rare

Still, back-to-back wins in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary would be near historic.

In 1976, Gerald Ford won the Iowa caucuses and then won the New Hampshire primary. No Republican candidate has done that since.

Wins in Iowa and New Hampshire would position Romney to all but close the show here in South Carolina.

"If he comes down here and wins, I'd say it's game, set, match," Woodard said.

Of course, Romney's rivals are trying mightily to make him play some extra sets.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who was eight votes behind Romney in Iowa, has a chance to slow Romney's roll - if New Hampshire voters give him a strong showing.

"If Santorum can eke out a second (place), that's exceeding expectations and that would be the story," Woodard said.

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