Nightly News   |  January 19, 2012

South Carolina voters talk to Tom Brokaw

In the days ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina primary NBC’s Tom Brokaw learned about the issues most important to people in the Palmetto State for the Nightly News series Main Street, USA.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are back with more on the presidential race. tom brokaw spent time this week talking with south carolina voters and political leaders about what matters to them these days and who they think is best equipped to deal with the challenges and opportunities in front of all of us. his report from main street usa here tonight, which happens to run right through south carolina .

>> what's up with these sorry politicians?

>> how will santorum beat obama?

>> reporter: south carolina is under siege. and loves it. it's the first republican test in the south and this state has a tradition of picking the eventual republican nominee.

>> we want someone as close to our ideology as possible.

>> reporter: south carolina 's senior senator whitney graham on the showdown.

>> we are not going to vote on who is most conservative, we are going to vote on who is most conservative that can win.

>> reporter: romney is not a natural in south carolina . tea party country, with a powerful evangelical presence. but the state also has an unemployment rate of almost 10%. in south carolina , typical of many of the communities in the central part of the state. at one time there were more than 20 textile mills here and now there is only one textile mill left, the ball bearing factory have been closed down. south carolina 's rookie governor here at at bmw plant believes economic recovery is the issue.

>> jobs spending and the economy.

>> reporter: lisa, a college professor and leading conservative had concerns about romney until she met him.

>> he and i shared how we had both come from pro-choice positions to a pro-life position. i have no doubt governor romney had sincere changes in positions.

>> reporter: south carolina 's most popular senator jim demint , a tea party hero, has not endorsed anyone, but tea party regulars have mixed feelings.

>> mitt romney was in south carolina , i would move to florida to stop him or nevada or one of the states down the road. i hope he doesn't skate into it.

>> reporter: martin says she would support romney if he gets the nomination.

>> there is no viable path forward for me.

>> reporter: with perry out of the way --

>> citizenship is a mission and you live that out in many ways.

>> reporter: gingrich has to divide the anti- romney vote with santorum and ron paul . a ron paul rally on debate night. working class persuaded he can go all the way. brian frank, a forklift driver was only into football until he became aware of congressman paul.

>> he has my heart.

>> reporter: if he does not win south carolina , should he go on?

>> absolutely. he has the money, he has people like me that will send him hundreds of dollars, even though i get a little tiny paycheck.

>> reporter: 36 hours to go. romney , gingrich, santorum and paul, it's game on, to use the sports metaphor.

>> we keep saying most wild day ever and today was.