GOP presidential candidates count on good 'ground game' for South Carolina primary

With less than a month before South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary, the presidential candidates are jumpstarting their Palmetto State organizations, opening offices, hiring workers and reaching out to potential backers.

Frontrunner Newt Gingrich is one of the state’s “ground game” leaders thus far. The former speaker of the U.S. House has hired 12 full-time staffers who are working out of five offices in Bluffton, Columbia, Greenville, Myrtle Beach and North Charleston, according to his campaign.

Gingrich — who is leading in the two latest S.C. polls although losing steam according to some national polls — is also picking up his visits to South Carolina and ate shrimp and grits with supporters at a Columbia restaurant Thursday.

Gingrich has also picked up some S.C. Tea Party support — to the chagrin of some factions of the movement.

This month, Tea Party groups in Myrtle Beach and Laurens County endorsed him. Gingrich also hired a couple of Tea Party members to work for his campaign.

That raised the ire of some S.C. Tea Party members who are supporting former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and say Gingrich is a Washington insider who is trying to buy the Tea Party vote in the Palmetto state.

Gingrich's camp denies the claim.

“He’s just trying to hire the best people he can hire,” said Billy Wilkins, a former federal judge who is co-chairing Gingrich’s S.C. operation. “I can assure you no one tried to buy anyone’s allegiance.”

Bachmann may be trailing in the polls, but she, too, has beefed up her S.C. team.

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