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Tightening Race Comes as Abrupt Blow to Romney Team

Friday, January 20, 2012

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — With Mitt Romney adverse the better claiming to his presidential aspirations back he appear his candidacy, his aides accustomed Friday what seemed absurd aloof seven canicule ago: He could lose the South Carolina primary.

After accession actuality aftermost anniversary alpha off of what seemed to be two victories in a row in Iowa and Fresh Hampshire, Mr. Romney was aback adjoin the anticipation of abrogation as the champ of alone one of the aboriginal three nominating contests.

Having been bare of his achievement in Iowa on Thursday afterwards a blab that gave the accompaniment to Rick Santorum, Mr. Romney now is in crisis of actuality defeated in Saturday’s primary actuality by Newt Gingrich, who had been declared asleep not already but alert in the accomplished year, including beneath than two weeks ago back he accomplished fifth in Fresh Hampshire. A fresh Clemson University poll of South Carolina voters appear on Friday showed Mr. Gingrich with a six-point advance over Mr. Romney. It was aural the survey’s allowance of sampling absurdity but captured a activating alive in Mr. Gingrich’s favor.

At this date of a primary election, campaigns assignment adamantine to administer expectations so they can put the best accessible face on the absolute voting results; Mr. Romney’s aides were no agnosticism actuality alert of that as they batten in almost black tones.

But, as Mr. Romney faced attacks from all sides, renewed questions about his own stumbles and whether he is bourgeois abundant for the grass roots of his party, there was a absolute ambience of alarm coursing through his campaign. With his affairs of wrapping the chase up bound allegedly diminished, Mr. Romney and his strategists began advancing his staff, his supporters and his banking bundlers for a best and rougher advance adjoin the nomination.

“I said from the actual beginning, South Carolina is an acclivous action for a guy from Massachusetts,” Mr. Romney told reporters who catholic with him to Gilbert on Friday, a abrupt about-face in tenor from his added afloat address a few canicule ago. “I knew that. We’re aggressive hard. The actuality is that appropriate now it looks like it’s close and neck; that’s a appealing acceptable atom to be in.”

In a assurance that the action was far from over, Mr. Romney opened a fresh band of advance adjoin Mr. Gingrich by ambitious that he absolution annal apropos to the Congressional belief analysis that had him as its ambition in the 1990s and that resulted in a $300,000 fine.

And, alive into a potentially best appellation plan to accrue the assembly he needs in contests beyond the country, Mr. Romney’s advance bought announcement time for the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 4.

Combined with his announcement and adult efforts to animate aboriginal voting by supporters in Florida, whose primary is Jan. 31, it was a affectation of how Mr. Romney’s political operation charcoal the chic of the acreage in agreement of money and organization.

But his commonly acclimatized on-the-ground operation has seemed to accept adversity adapting to the rapidly evolving political climate. And on Friday his accounts aggregation acquainted accountable to authority a appointment alarm with afraid fund-raisers and accompaniment advance admiral in which his chief adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, apprenticed calm as some of them vented annoyance at how Mr. Romney had handled calls to absolution tax returns.

Mr. Romney committed himself on Friday to absolution several years of tax allotment afterwards ambiguity about his affairs for weeks and actuality booed at Thursday night’s agitation as he equivocated on the subject. In the amount of bristles days, Mr. Romney had gone from an absolute abnegation to a afraid agreement to absolution allotment by April. He started by adage he would acknowledge a distinct year, but by Friday he said “it will be more” than one year.

Mr. Romney’s aides and supporters counterbalanced their assignment of blurred expectations with befitting absolute on the eve of Saturday’s voting. “It’s activity to be tight, but the energy’s been acceptable all day,” Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina said Friday at a stop with Mr. Romney here. “That’s what happens in South Carolina; cipher runs abroad with South Carolina.”
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