Friday, February 19, 2016

It's Frenzy Friday as GOP Candidates Scour South Carolina for Every Last Vote in Advance of Saturday Primary

The stakes could not be higher for ALL candidates!

Here's the latest polling from Real Clear Politics:

Notice any trends here?

While it may confuse some voters to have a presidential primary on a Saturday, you would have to be in a coma not to know that an election is near. The South Carolina Republican Presidential Preference Primary is on Saturday, February 20th. Democrats host their primary the following Saturday. A registered South Carolina voter can vote in either one but not both.

Jockeying for attention among so many candidates started in earnest last year. The first event I attended was In July with Ohio Governor John Kasich. I supported Kasich in his first congressional election in Ohio and it was good to reminisce with him about those days. However, Kasich’s more moderate views make him less appealing among the Palmetto State’s conservative primary voters.

GOP candidates have been crisscrossing the state over the past months but the last days have become a frenzy. The South Carolina GOP maintains a Candidate Tracker with notices for the latest campaign appearances. The South Carolina Lowcountry, the region along the coast from Charleston to Hilton Head Island where I live, is a particular target. It’s an area with a large retired population and military voters. Candidates have announced seven visits to the Lowcountry on Friday, half of their schedule for the day.

Voters may appreciate the numerous opportunities to see, hear and even speak to the candidates. Less appreciated are the constant phone calls. I even received two “real person” calls from the Bernie Sanders campaign! The phone rings constantly with robo-polls mostly but also last minute attack calls. On Thursday I received a recorded message from Jerry Falwell Jr. on behalf of Donald Trump attacking Ted Cruz for what Falwell said were Cruz dirty tricks directed at Ben Carson in Iowa. I also received an attack call by Ben Carson directed at Cruz on that same issue.

It looks like both Trump and Carson are trying to pull evangelical voters away from Cruz who has countered with radio ads featuring some of Trump’s saltier language. There’s a definite Christian tug of war going on in a state where evangelicals make up a large voting block. It was a similar block of Christian voters who helped Cruz do better than polls predicted and win Iowa. Will they come out for him again and blunt Trump’s large lead?

Mailings are another feature of the South Carolina primary. There has been a blizzard of expensively produced glossy mailings. More than a dozen of these have arrived from the Right to Rise political action committee (PAC) supporting Jeb Bush. Half of those touted Jeb’s experience and national security views the other half were attack pieces aimed almost entirely at Marco Rubio.

Rubio’s PAC sent two mailings attacking Bush and Cruz while the PAC supporting Ted Cruz sent two pieces, both positive touting Cruz’s stand on national security and immigration.

The only mailing I’ve received from Donald Trump is a Christmas card!

Before I move on, I have to say South Carolina gets a bad rap on negative campaigning. Watching the talking heads on the news programs there seems to be general agreement that South Carolina politics are nasty. It’s only natural that a few punches are going to be thrown and how candidates handle those attacks are a good barometer for voters to decide which candidate has what it takes to go up against the Democrats in the fall. Do you really think Democrats are going to be playing nice in November?

For most voters I’ve spoken to finding a candidate who can beat the Democrats is one of the most important calculations they make in deciding whom to support. Forget the polling matchups showing how various GOP candidates fare against the Dems. It’s way too early for those polls to have any meaning. It’s more of a gut feeling for voters here.

More than anything, South Carolina voters, like so many in other states, are looking for a winner who can help restore the American Dream that has been lost during the Obama years. Voters in the Palmetto State are excited about this election and proud of our role in the process and how we help to set the table for the mega primaries to come.

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