Romney puts S.C. before N.H.

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina trumps New Hampshire on Mitt Romney's schedule when the former Massachusetts governor formally launches his presidential bid next week.

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said Thursday that logistics play a major role in the timing of the Feb. 14 visit and the state party chief in New Hampshire said he is not concerned.

But Republicans in South Carolina think it underscores the state's importance as host of the first Southern primary, to take place Feb. 2, 2008.

"I would think it would make good political sense," South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson said. U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter is the only 2008 presidential hopeful who has made his first formal announcement for the White House from South Carolina.

Dawson said the state should take center stage because of the number of people who vote in primaries and its impact on the national scene. He noted Iowa's caucuses turn out about 80,000 people and New Hampshire's GOP primary about 200,000. More than 600,000 South Carolinians typically cast ballots in this state's two primaries.

And South Carolina's Republican Party has "a 26-year history of whoever wins the primary here going on to win the nomination for president," Dawson said.

Romney is to make his initial announcements in Michigan and Iowa on Feb. 13. After South Carolina a day later, Romney will head to New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Florida, Madden said.

Romney is seeking to build support in South Carolina, where Christian conservatives play a key primary role and where some have questioned whether his Mormon faith adheres to fundamental Christian values.

He plans to visit Anderson on Friday as his informal campaign, running for more than a year, continues.

New Hampshire's GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen said he's not feeling snubbed by the timing.

"It's not as though he's an unknown" in the Granite State, Cullen said. There's nothing more to it than scheduling, Cullen said. "I'm not sure there's one state rising in prominence over another one."