As the candidates arrive, experts tell Channel 9 they'll tailor their message to voters here, but they need to be careful.
Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said the candidates might focus on social issues to woo the area's social conservatives, but their message needs to be broad.
"They need to broaden their message, not narrow it," Huffmon said. "You can't just change your tune to a one-note song and appeal to South Carolina conservatives."
The state is home to evangelicals, social and fiscal conservatives. Experts said these voters have different reasons for casting their ballots as they do.
According to recent polls, Mitt Romney is the front-runner in South Carolina. Experts called his support "solid and consistent." If Romney wins the Palmetto state, political watchers said he'll do it by playing to the middle, the way John McCain did in 2008.
The men with the most to lose may be Perry and Gingrich. Both suffered poor showings in Iowa, and another bad outing here could doom them.
"If Rick Perry could not show vitality in Iowa, all but skipped New Hampshire, and to then come back to the south and cannot get a significant amount of support in the south, I don't see how he could continue to raise money," Huffmon said.
"If you can't do well in these early contests, the people who write the big checks are going to say, ‘I don't want to waste my money.’"
The suddenly hot candidate is former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who battled Romney to a virtual tie in Iowa, and has seen rising poll numbers in South Carolina.
Huffmon believes the evangelical vote alone is not enough for him to the win the state, as it wasn't enough for Mike Huckabee four years ago.
The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday, and South Carolina will vote on Saturday, the 21st.
State party leaders expect a high turnout -- somewhere in the range of a half-million votes.