DES MOINES, Iowa — Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann plan to make their next — and possibly last — stands in South Carolina instead of chasing the rest of the GOP presidential pack to New Hampshire.
Neither candidate is a sure bet to survive past Tuesday’s leadoff Iowa caucuses. But both say they’ll jump ahead to the first Southern state to vote, a recognition that they have little hope of making up ground in the nine days before New Hampshire’s primary. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is heavily favored in his neighboring state, but a few others are in pursuit.
Perry, the Texas governor, heads straight to Greenville, S.C. on Wednesday. Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, will spend part of three days in that state beginning Wednesday, her campaign manager said.
The two campaigns could face pressure to fold if they don’t pull off surprising third-place-or-better finishes in Iowa. In Bachmann’s case, the latest polling has her in last place among the six candidates campaigning hard.
For the last week, Bachmann has pushed back on daily questions about her ability to move on if she can’t climb out of the basement in Iowa, the state where she was born.
“Well, we’ve bought tickets to head off to South Carolina,” she said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” She has a South Carolina staff of at least a dozen and backing from influential tea party activists there.
Asked this weekend if he could conceive of a scenario where she drops out ahead of South Carolina, Bachmann campaign manager Keith Nahigian told The Associated Press, “Not at this point.”
Nahigian said Bachmann doesn’t intend to arrive in New Hampshire until Friday ahead of back-to-back weekend debates there. Perry also plans to participate in those debates.
Bachmann has invested little time in New Hampshire in the six months she’s been in the race. In October, five full-time staff members for her there quit.
Perry is also a footnote in most New Hampshire polls and hasn’t devoted much effort to the state lately.
Romney is far ahead of his rivals in New Hampshire. But former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman practically moved into a state where independents can vote, bypassing an Iowa contest where social conservatives tend to hold sway. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also plan to aggressively compete in New Hampshire.
“I think New Hampshire is a good place to start the debate for South Carolina,” Gingrich said Sunday.