What’s Driving Down Romney’s South Carolina Poll Numbers?

Something seems to be chipping away at Romney’s poll numbers in South Carolina, but right now it’s still anybody’s guess what that is. The anti-Bain ads should be a top suspect, but several media outlets trekked to the South Carolina town that was apparently devastated by Bain’s “vulture capitalism,” and found that most people they talked to barely even remembered the company. The New York Times reports:

In a new barrage of political advertisements and speeches here, three of Mr. Romney’s opponents in South Carolina’s primary on Jan. 21 have used Gaffney and Bain’s business practices in other communities across the country as a kind of battering ram to portray him as a job-destroying robber baron. …

Politico visited Gaffney and found basically the same thing. Though the paper did manage to track down one disgruntled former employee at a Bain-owned plant who was willing to speak out against the company’s practices:

“As far as I’m concerned, it left a very bad taste in my mouth,” said Bob Hayler, who ran the plant shortly after it opened in 1988. “They’re somewhat cutthroat. I’ve worked for a lot of managers over my years but they were almost an angry bunch….They were yellers. They were screamers. There were just huge demands.”

And yet…apparently not a bad enough taste to convince the guy to vote against Romney:

Now retired , Hayler says he’s “more of an independent” than a Republican, but could still see himself voting for Romney, the alleged “vulture” capitalist.

“I don’t know whether I’d vote for the man or not, but in a primary, I probably would, because he’s not as far to the right as the rest of them,” Hayler said.

The thing is, if Bain isn’t what’s driving down Romney’s poll numbers, then what is? It’s certainly possible that South Carolina voters who aren’t from Gaffney might still be turned off by the ads. Then again, the angry reception Gingrich’s Bain attacks received at Huckabee’s forum seem to suggest they’re not playing particularly well with South Carolina voters in general.

Of course, Romney’s also been under fire for his flip-flops on abortion – an issue that will obviously resonate in the socially-conservative state.