BLUFFTON, S.C. - Mitt Romney on Wednesday swapped talk of resurrecting the auto industry that helped him in Michigan with a pledge to pay attention to textile and other industrial job losses that have punished the South.
"You've seen it here, in furniture. You've seen the textile industry, where Washington watched, saw the jobs go and go," the Republican presidential contender told a group of senior citizens at the Sun City Hilton Head Retirement Center.
"I'm not willing to declare defeat on any industry where we can be competitive. I'm going to fight for every job," Romney said.
Later, during a news conference, the former Massachusetts governor acknowledged he may not always be successful, but he renewed his Rust Belt criticism of rival John McCain for suggesting some automotive jobs will not be replaced.
The Arizona senator has suggested Romney is pandering for votes and ignoring the realities of the global economy.
"Can I guarantee that we'll be able to protect every industry and every job and be successful keeping every job?" Romney said to reporters. "I don't think any person can make that guarantee. But I can guarantee that I'll fight and do my best."
South Carolina votes Saturday, and Romney's trip south inspired a reassessment of his victory a night earlier in Michigan. That was the state where he was born, Romney's father served as governor for three terms and where Romney himself pledged to do more than any other candidate to reduce the state's nation-leading 7.4 percent unemployment rate.
On Monday at the Detroit Economic Club, Romney told industry titans they should support their native son because, "I've got Michigan in my DNA, I've got it in my heart and I've got cars in my bloodstream."
On Wednesday in South Carolina, Romney made his victory sound like it had been a longshot.
"I hadn't lived in Michigan since 1965, and so it had been a long time, but there were deep thoughts and memories that came from that Great Lakes state," he said.
The South Carolina primary represents the first time that the Romney camp faces something other than first-place expectations. The former Massachusetts governor had predicated his campaign strategy on early wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, with a firewall of protection in Michigan, where he was born.
Second-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire triggered questions about Romney's electability, while a win in between in the Wyoming caucuses was largely greeted with a yawn. In Michigan on Tuesday, Romney was cast as a candidate on the rebound for finally winning a state where he was expected to do well.
Romney sought to drop his campaign's already-low expectations even further.
"This is a state, I suspect, Senator McCain has pretty well wrapped up, and so I'm going to spend time here to try to strengthen my position, but I'm also going to spending time in Nevada and spending time in Florida," he said.
He noted that Nevada is offering more delegates than South Carolina, 31 to 24. Additionally, 1,038 delegates will be up for grabs on Feb. 5 when 24 states vote.