GOP candidates’ post-N.H. schedules reveal strategies

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Republican presidential contenders are all heading to South Carolina for their next debate after Tuesday’s primary here, but the detours some are taking are telling of their primary strategies.

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney both are making trips to Michigan, which holds its primary Jan. 15. The two men are locked in a battle for a win in the nation’s first primary, and Michigan should serve as the next arena where either candidate can try to rebound from a loss here or pad the bounce from a win.

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McCain won Michigan in 2000 over President Bush on the heels of a landslide victory in New Hampshire. Romney is a Michigan native, and his father served as governor there for three terms.

Observers tend to agree that both candidates desperately need a win in New Hampshire to advance, but Michigan is clearly a fallback for both.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is heading straight to Florida after the primary here. The former mayor has staked his campaign on merely surviving the early states before heading to delegate-rich Florida and Super Tuesday states.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.) are not taking any detours, heading directly to South Carolina. The first-in-the-South primary is key to both Southern politicians, who view evangelicals and social conservatives as crucial to winning the nomination.

Neither candidate is playing particularly well in New Hampshire, where Republicans tend to be more socially moderate and fiscally conservative.