Scott E. Buchanan, associate professor of political science at The Citadel in Charleston and executive director of the Citadel Symposium on Southern Politics , said South Carolina has been vital for GOP nominees. He noted that every one since 1980 had to win the state on the way to the Republican nomination.
“First, it is a small enough state that one can do a lot of personal campaigning,” Buchanan said by e-mail. “Secondly, it is one of the most conservative states in the Union, so it is vital for a GOP candidate to have good bona fides as a conservative to win the state. Third, S.C. is the first southern state to hold a primary. To some degree, the rest of the South takes a cue from S.C. as to who is the ‘front runner' in the contest.”