CLIVE, Iowa — Mitt Romney unveiled plans Monday night for a campaign swing through South Carolina later this week, signaling that the Southern state would be the next major battleground in the Republican presidential race.
The announcement of Romney’s campaign itinerary comes as other candidates have raised doubts about how seriously New Hampshire’s Jan. 10 primary would be contested. Romney holds a commanding lead in New Hampshire, while at least two of his rivals, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), are planning to bypass the state and head to South Carolina after Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses.
Romney’s decision to forgo a full day of campaigning in New Hampshire to make a South Carolina campaign swing suggests both that Romney is confident about his ability to withstand challenges in New Hampshire and that he wants to maintain a presence in South Carolina and not cede it to his opponents this week.
Romney plans to remain in Iowa for a series of post-caucus television interviews from Des Moines on Wednesday morning. From here, he will fly to New Hampshire and has planned town hall meetings later Wednesday in Manchester and Peterborough, N.H. On Thursday, he holds a third town hall meeting in the Salem area.
Later Thursday, Romney will jet to South Carolina for an afternoon event in Charleston, and he plans a Friday morning campaign stop in Myrtle Beach. He campaigned in both cities a few weeks ago when he picked up the endorsement of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
Romney will return to New Hampshire on Friday for a spaghetti dinner in Laconia. He has scheduled a Saturday morning rally in Derry before that evening’s ABC News-WMUR debate in Manchester. The other candidates are expected to be in New Hampshire over the weekend for the debate, as well as a Sunday morning NBC News-Union Leader debate.