After the Iowa surprise and the New Hampshire snoozer, the six GOP presidential contenders have headed south.
As I wrote this morning, the past few rainy days in South Carolina have been a Rick Perry-fest for curious voters, with the Texas governor packing in events before his rivals joined him.
There's big spending on TV ads - millions by the super PAC backing various candidates and now reinforcements from their own war chests - and the slams against the "Massachusetts Moderate" and the rest of the gang are only going to get worse.
"We've seen the nice biographical ads so far, with their families and sunsets," said David Woodard, a Clemson University political science professor. "That's likely to go away around Thursday or so. It's always been nasty here, but I think it's a little more this time."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the first beyond Perry to resume glad-handing here this morning.
His 9 a.m. scheduled start for a town hall in Rock Hill, in South Carolina's conservative-laden upstate, was packed. He and his wife stayed after his 45-minute event to pose for pictures with the giddy crowd.
Several voters commented beforehand that they like his straight-shooter approach, and he gave them plenty of blunt, no-nonsense remarks. He only went after President Barack Obama by name (referring to him several times as "a Saul Alinsky radical"), but used him as justification for why they need "a conservative who can carry a record of achievement into the debate."
He jumped from fiscal issues (advocating for a full audit of the Federal Reserve) to foreign policy, landing a standing ovation for tough talk about ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.
He also went on to hit several local issues, pledging not to interfere with the state's immigration and voter identification laws that the Obama administration has ordered South Carolina to undo. And going beyond the line that many are using about crafting an "American" energy policy, he said he'd help the state to develop the $29 billion in natural gas buried off its shore and use the royalties to help rebuild its ports.
But after the wonky talk, his closing pitch went back to Obama, the state's conservatives, and a not-so-subtle swipe at Romney: "I believe having someone try to debate Obama who isn't sure what they believe, isn't sure what their record is, isn't sure how to articulate it, is going to be just what we've done in the past.
"I believe I am the only conservative who has the capacity to unify the conservative movement."