MANCHESTER, New Hampshire – Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney easily won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night, setting up a pivotal contest next week in South Carolina that could either seal the nomination for the GOP front-runner or give one of his rivals a much-needed jolt.

The Romney win here was much anticipated. But South Carolina, a state that often chooses the eventual winner of the Republican Party’s nomination, has a bloc of conservatives who may be more hostile to the former Massachusetts governor.

Here’s what to look for as the GOP campaign moves south.

1. Will the candidates speak in more detail to the unemployed?

Iowa and New Hampshire both have unemployment rates much lower than the national average (5.2 and 5.7 percent respectively, as of late last year). As a result, the candidates have focused much of their rhetoric on reducing the size of government and cutting spending, as if the primary were not taking place in a period of historic unemployment.

South Carolina, on the other hand, has a jobless rate of 9.9 percent, much higher than the national average of 8.5 percent. And while few blacks will be voting in the GOP primary, the state has a sizable black population, and African-American unemployment is nearly 16 percent nationally.

The candidates are likely to be pushed, by voters and in debates, to offer more details on how they would create jobs for the millions of Americans who are out of work.

2. Will Rep. Tim Scott or businessman Herman Cain endorse?

South Carolina’s influential Indian-American governor, Nikki Haley, has already endorsed Romney. But Scott, a freshman in Congress who is African-American and in the House GOP leadership, has not backed any candidate and could provide a temporary jolt to whoever he supports, particularly if it’s not Romney. Scott has strong credentials with Tea Party conservatives in the state.

Cain, who has promised an “unconventional endorsement” a few days before the primary, actually led in polls in South Carolina before he suspended his campaign in December, and could move votes to whoever he backs.

3. Will the Tea Party or evangelical vote consolidate behind one candidate?

This is the biggest question about South Carolina and to some extent, the entire Republican race. Will former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, ex-Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry keep dividing up the votes of people who haven’t settled on Romney, easing the former Massachusetts governor’s path to victory? Or will conservatives get behind one of them and empower him as the Romney alternative?

Some prominent evangelical leaders are discussing a group endorsement of one candidate. . But will voters in South Carolina care? In New Hampshire, exit polls showed Romney won the plurality of votes of the most conservative and Tea Party Republicans.

4. Will the bi-partisan focus on Bain Capital slow Romney down?

Gingrich and several of Romney’s opponents are blasting the Bain Capital co-founder for the firm’s work, suggesting the company’s prowess was not reinventing companies, as Romney claims, but getting workers laid off. Romney’s rivals have an ally in this case, as President Obama’s aides are also attacking Romney on Bain.

Much like Hillary Clinton did in her primary race against Obama in 2008, Romney’s rivals are trying to cast him as out of touch with white, working-class voters. (Disclosure: theGrio’s parent company, NBCUniversal, and Bain Capital co-own the Weather Channel.)

If these attacks work, they could help pull low-income workers away from Romney and complicate his campaign in South Carolina and potentially in the general election against Obama.

5. Is religion, like race, no longer a political barrier?

President Obama proved an African-American could be elected president. In both 2008 and 2012, however, some conservatives have openly said they would not back a Mormon candidate. If Romney can win enough evangelicals to win both the Iowa and South Carolina primaries, it would suggest anti-Mormon bias is not strong enough to prevent him from becoming president.
4. Will the bi-partisan focus on Bain Capital slow Romney down?

Gingrich and several of Romney’s opponents are blasting the Bain Capital co-founder for the firm’s work, suggesting the company’s prowess was not reinventing companies, as Romney claims, but getting workers laid off. Romney’s rivals have an ally in this case, as President Obama’s aides are also attacking Romney on Bain.

Much like Hillary Clinton did in her primary race against Obama in 2008, Romney’s rivals are trying to cast him as out of touch with white, working-class voters. (Disclosure: theGrio’s parent company, NBCUniversal, and Bain Capital co-own the Weather Channel.)

If these attacks work, they could help pull low-income workers away from Romney and complicate his campaign in South Carolina and potentially in the general election against Obama.

5. Is religion, like race, no longer a political barrier?

President Obama proved an African-American could be elected president. In both 2008 and 2012, however, some conservatives have openly said they would not back a Mormon candidate. If Romney can win enough evangelicals to win both the Iowa and South Carolina primaries, it would suggest anti-Mormon bias is not strong enough to prevent him from becoming president.

Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @PerryBaconJr