CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - It's a tale of two South Carolina's. Two distinct conservative bodies making up a state that can break a GOP candidates campaign for the presidency. For the next week, six GOP candidates will try and solve the equation to come out on top of South Carolina by catering to its diverse voters.
"South Carolina has an opportunity to really influence the rest of the nation," says former Charleston County GOP chairwoman Cyndi Mosteller.
But before the rest of the nation gets a shot at selecting the next Republican nominee, South Carolina's "First in the South" Primary gets its turn. And for a candidate to win South Carolina they have their work cut out for them.
"There are two traditionally considered pockets," says Mosteller. "The upstate is very religious, very faith based, very evangelical. Down in the coastal areas we have a lot of transplants down here. People interested in economics and quality of life issues. So the state has diversity."
"South Carolina is a travel state," says Mosteller. "You can get from one end to the other in not too long a time."
Mosteller says strategies are starting to get more clear and Citadel political science professor Scott Buchanan agrees.
"Romney is trying to maximize his vote here and make some in roads into the midlands," says Buchanan.
The professor says with the support of senator John McCain at Romney's side, the coastal vote may be a lock because of McCain's strong showing in the Lowcountry and up and down the SC coast in the 2008 primary.
Buchanan believes Romney will take his campaign to uncharted waters in the midlands and beyond where he was the weakest in his 2008 campaign. While Romney heads north, Gov. Rick Perry will head South, cutting through the Lowcountry up to Myrtle Beach for the debate on Jan. 16.
But Buchanan believes the real battle for South Carolina voters will be waged upstate.
"Santorum and Gingrich are basically going to split the vote amongst themselves in the upstate because they're very similar on the social issues," says Buchanan.
And former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told CNN's Piers Morgan earlier this week he's expecting the battle for South Carolina to "be Armageddon" and that "voters of South Carolina are going to have to look and decide."
Which is one thing Mosteller says South Carolinians have done correctly since 1980 and selecting Ronald Reagan.
"I do think South Carolina will pick the next winner," says Mosteller.
The first big stop for all candidates will be the debate next Monday in Myrtle Beach followed by a debate in Charleston on Jan. 19 before voting for the "First in the South Primary" occurs two days later on Jan. 21.