Nightly News   |  January 15, 2012

GOP hopefuls stump in SC

With six days until South Carolina Republicans vote, front-runner Mitt Romney’s rivals were on the stump, looking for support. NBC’s Ron Mott reports.

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>>> things are heating up down south in the campaign trail where there is an all-out effort to derail mitt romney in south carolina . well, romney spent the day behind closed doors , his rivals were crisscrossing the state, hoping to stop his momentum before it is too late. nbc's ron mott is on the trail tonight in myrtle beach . ron , good evening.

>> reporter: hey, lester. good evening to you. this was a rare day of rest for mitt romney as the rest of the field tried to take advantage, calling on south carolina conservative voters to keep this race from running out of options.

>> let us all fight for that --

>> reporter: with republican front -runner mitt romney taking sunday off the campaign trail, his opponents were busy stumping today, rallying conservative support in an effort to slow romney 's momentum.

>> i hope each of you will peer into your heart and find that individual with the record, with the values that represent your heart.

>> reporter: harry and rick santorum hoping to leverage his endorsement this week from a national group of evangelical leaders into a south carolina surge appealed to a christian audience at a prayer breakfast.

>> we need a candidate who has accountability to god and accountability to an eternal truth and understanding of our role in the world.

>> reporter: since 1980 , voters here have chosen the republican candidate who ultimately advanced to the general election . ronald reagan , george h.w. bush , bob dole , george w. bush , and john mccain four years ago. so if the former massachusetts governor who leads in the polls wins an unprecedented three in a row, will his challengers call it quits?

>> if romney wins south carolina , i think the game's over. this is the last stand for many candidates.

>> reporter: but newt gingrich , who continued to challenge romney 's record on the sunday morning talk circuit, didn't sound quite ready to concede.

>> if romney wins here, he has an enormous advantage going forward. i hope every conservative will reach the conclusion that to vote for anybody but gingrich is in fact, to help romney win the nomination.

>> reporter: meanwhile, jon huntsman trumpeted the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper, looking to turn his long odds into a strong enough finish to keep going.

>> i think it is a big deal anytime you get the largest paper in the state to come out and endorse you, that's a big deal .

>> reporter: as for ron paul , he picked up the key endorsement tonight from a tea party back state senator, ron paul and other candidates are expected to speak tomorrow at the tea party convention here in myrtle beach . lester?

>> ron mott, thanks.