GOP candidates for president converge on South Carolina

Republican candidates for president were out in force in South Carolina Tuesday.

Appearing in North Charleston, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said the ongoing debate over the federal debt ceiling is a chance finally to pass a balanced-budget amendment and avoid such debates in the future.

“Ultimately, I believe there is enough support in the country and will be enough support in the Congress to do something big, and that is to pass a balanced-budget amendment,” Santorum said as he started a two-day campaign swing through South Carolina.

Appearing in the Upstate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has started slapping at GOP rival Mitt Romney’s job-creation record as Massachusetts governor, announced he had received endorsements from the family of a late S.C. governor. Carroll Campbell’s widow and two sons appeared with Huntsman to endorse him.

Meanwhile, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was in North Charleston Tuesday night for a town hall meeting sponsored by the Charleston Tea Party. Today, Gingrich speaks at a meeting of leaders of the state’s electric cooperatives in Charleston.

South Carolina’s GOP primary is the first in the South.

Santorum said the debt ceiling should not be raised without Congress passing a balanced-budget amendment. He acknowledged it would be years before such an amendment could be ratified by the states “but it will put us on a glide path, a responsible glide path” to trim federal spending.

A balanced-budget amendment also would put the nation “back in the box that our founders intended,” the former Pennsylvania senator said. “We were a limited government and the intent of our country was to keep people free.”

Huntsman reveled Tuesday in the endorsement of Campbell’s family.

Campbell, South Carolina’s first two-term Republican governor, left office in 1995. He’s credited with engineering the GOP’s growth to dominance of the Palmetto State. Campbell died of a heart attack in 2005 at 65 after a four-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Huntsman said it’s time to start comparing the candidates’ records.

“We’re going to get out and talk about our record and how it might compare and contrast with others. I think that’s a perfectly legitimate thing to be doing at this point in the race,” he said.

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