Mitt Romney’s endorsement of state Rep. Nikki Haley on Tuesday pits his candidate against three hopefuls aligned with other 2008 presidential candidates.
Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) is backing Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.), Mike Huckabee is backing Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is a close ally of state Attorney General Henry McMaster.
All four candidates are huddled within about 15 points of each other in most polling on the race, making it a wide-open affair.
Of course, Huckabee and Romney have a little more skin in the game, as South Carolina is a key presidential primary state, and they may have designs on running again in 2012. Among other potential candidates, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) are both backing Barrett.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have yet to weigh in.