SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (search) enjoyed some Southern hospitality Monday night as he introduced himself in a state that will likely be key in deciding the 2008 Republican presidential primary.
Romney refuses to say if he will run for president in 2008, instead concentrating on a re-election bid.
But pretty much everyone else is penciling him in, including C-SPAN, which aired Romney's speech to Spartanburg County Republicans live in its "Road to the White House" series.
Romney hobnobbed with crab-cake-eating bigwigs before the speech and seemed to be welcomed with open arms by voters who have determined the GOP nominee for over two decades.
South Carolina votes after Iowa and New Hampshire, but the first-in-the-South primary has given the eventual GOP nominee unbeatable momentum since Ronald Reagan (search) swept to the White House in 1980.
In his speech, Romney hit on Republican core values — fiscal conservatism, smaller government, the importance of families and a strong military. Romney highlighted cutting a $3 billion deficit in Massachusetts in just two years.
"We fought waste and inefficiency just like you do here," Romney said. "One commentator said we just didn't go after a sacred cow. We went after the whole herd."
Among other potential 2008 candidates, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (search) came to South Carolina three weeks ago, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search), R-Tenn., visited last year while campaigning for others.
The GOP field is wide open, with President Bush a lame duck and Vice President Dick Cheney having said he won't run.