In SC, Romney looks to solidify campaign strength

By Kasie Hunt

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 11 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

"I gave back a humorous response. It was in no way intended to be an insult toward Anita Hill or anybody else," he said in an interview on Albany, N.Y., radio station WGDJ-AM.

Taken together, Cain and Perry's woes have Republicans privately wondering about yet another conservative alternative to Romney: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich spent Friday in New Hampshire but planned several appearances Saturday in South Carolina before the debate.

Gingrich suggested that Republicans are still searching for an alternative to Romney. He was referring to a new CBS News poll showing Cain atop the GOP field with 18 percent support and Gingrich and Romney tied at 15 percent.

"The 85 percent who have not chosen Mitt Romney, who have known him now for five years, I think are looking for a conservative activist who will stand firm and who will fight to change Washington," Gingrich told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.

Gingrich has ramped up his campaign efforts in recent weeks and is set to open a South Carolina headquarters Saturday. He has nine people working for him in the state, while Romney has just three paid staffers. Gingrich has been endorsed by the head of the Columbia Tea Party. Aides also say Republican Sen. Jim DeMint's decision not to endorse in the primary is a boon for the former speaker. DeMint backed Romney in 2008.

But Gingrich is just the latest conservative candidate to begin to emerge as a possible alternative to Romney, who has held a steady though not breakaway lead in the polls and has run his campaign without major gaffes or problems.

Romney wouldn't answer questions about Gingrich's popularity Friday, saying only that his responsibility is to continue to talk about fixing the economy and creating jobs.

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