Romney Claims 'Uphill Climb' in S.C., Despite Polls Showing He Leads

By Susan Jones | January 11, 2012 | 8:14 AM EST

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney kisses his wife Ann as he arrives at the Romney for President New Hampshire primary night victory party at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

( - Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney -- pleased with his big victory in the New Hampshire primary following his 'slim victory' in Iowa -- said on Wednesday, "I've got an uphill climb in South Carolina ahead of me."

However, according to the latest polling, Romney is well ahead of his competitors. The Real Clear Politics average shows Romney with a 10-point lead over Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, his nearest competitors in S.C.

And in another boost for Romney, he's been endorsed by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, a tea party conservative, who praised Romney for his electability and  for his experience in turning broken companies around.

In a Wednesday morning interview with NBC's "Today Show," Romney pointed out that in New Hampshire, "the people who call themselves conservative or very conservative supported me by a pretty solid majority."

Asked about attacks on his business experience by his Republican rivals, Romney said he expected such attacks from President Obama. "But we didn't expect that Newt Gintrich and Rick Perry would become the witnesses for his prosecution, if you will. And I don't think it's helped them. And for them to attacking free enterprise and to suggest that people should have a limit to how much they can make and in their success, is something which the Democrats have talked about for years."

Romney said the numbers prove the tactic is not helping his Republican rivals gain support. "I think the evidence from N.H. last night, where the speaker and Rick Perry were both in single digits, suggests this kind of attack on free enterprise is simply not gaining traction for them," Romney told Fox & Friends Wednesday morning.

Romney won the New Hampshire primary with 39 percent of the Republican vote, followed by Ron Paul (22%), and Jon Huntsman (16.8%). Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were neck-and-neck with around 9% of the vote, and Rick Perry received a negligible 1%.

Romney says the Republican attacks a good warm-up for what he's sure to face when he goes head-to-head with President Obama in the general election, as he fully expects to do.

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Romney also criticized President Obama for trying to divide America by pitting the 99 percent against the one percent. "You've opened up a whole new wave of approach to this country that is entirely inconsistent witih the concept of 'One Nation, Under God,' and the American people, I believe, in the final analysis, will reject it" he told NBC.

Romney added that Obama's "envy-oriented, attack oriented" approach will fail.