Tags: South Carolina

GOP AG Chair ‘Guardedly Optimistic’ about Nov.


Alan Wilson, chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association told me in a phone interview he is feeling “very good” about GOP incumbent attorneys general holding onto their jobs this November.

Of the 25 seats Republicans currently hold nationwide, 17 are up for election this year. On Monday in Tennessee, the state supreme court appointed Republican Herbert Slatery.

Wisconsin, Colorado, and Arizona are the only red states in which the incumbent is not running for reelection. Races in those three are very competitive, said Wilson, South Carolina’s AG.

“We have a great slate of candidates in these states and believe that we will be able to hold just about every red state,” Wilson said. “We are guardedly optimistic about our chances in those three states. We have strong candidates in each that are doing very well in their campaigns.”

With Democrat AGs in Nevada, New Mexico and Arkansas not running again, Wilson is hopeful Republicans can make some inroads.

Wilson told me he is very proud Republicans have women running for AG in New Mexico and Arkansas.

“Right now, Florida is the only state with a female Republican AG,” Wilson said. “We have the opportunity to increase that number to four if Riedel, Rutledge, and Coffman are successful this November.”

Susan Riedel is running in New Mexico, Leslie Rutledge in Arkansas, and Cynthia Coffman in Colorado.

“Over the last six years, the states have lost ground to the federal government and it is the state attorneys general who stand in the delta between the people and the federal government,” Wilson said. Wilson emphasized the critical nature of these elections. “This is why we need strong rule-of-law AGs who will fight in the courts and represent [the people of their states].”

Tags: South Carolina , Wisconsin , New Mexico , Arkansas , Nevada , Colorado , Tennessee , Arizona , Florida

Group Pushes for Delay in South Carolina’s Primary Runoff


As noted in today’s Morning Jolt, Bruce Carroll, Ben Howe, and the guys at Carolina Conservatives United are challenging the existing schedule for the South Carolina primary.

Currently, South Carolina holds its primary election on June 10. If no candidate reaches 50 percent, there is a runoff, currently scheduled for June 24. The group filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, contending that the existing system violates the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, passed in 2009, which “requires states to transmit validly-requested absentee ballots to service members no later than 45 days before a federal election, when the request has been received by that date, except where the state has been granted an undue hardship waiver approved by the Department of Defense for that election.”

Ben Howe elaborates:

We believe we’ve found an iron clad way to extend the run-off period in the South Carolina primary. Right now it is at a paltry 2 weeks and we believe we’ve discovered something that will extend that to 60 days . . . we believe there is a hope that the time for South Carolina voters to pick, the time needed for candidates to up their game, could be longer than anyone had expected. And that could be a game changer.

A 60-day window would put the runoff on August 12 or so.

This is all aimed at two-term senator Lindsey Graham, of course. Graham faces at least three significant challengers at this point: State senator Lee Bright, Richard Cash, and Nancy Mace. Graham is likely to take the largest share on primary day, but he could easily end up with less than 50 percent and the top challenger would face the difficult task of unifying the anti-Graham factions — a task easier to achieve in two months than in two weeks.

Tags: Lindsey Graham , South Carolina

The South Carolina GOP’s Not-So-Sweet 16


Tomorrow, South Carolina’s first congressional district will hold its primaries for their special House election, created when Tim Scott became the state’s newest U.S. senator.

If no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary, voters will return to the polls in two weeks for a runoff contest between the top two finishers. The general election contest is May 7.

The Democrats are all but certain to nominate Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, the sister of television host/comedian Stephen Colbert; she faces a little-known rival, Ben Frasier. Colbert-Busch raised $309,559 by the end of February, and she’s likely to have her brother’s fan base eager to help her out financially. The Republican lean of the district is probably enough to ensure Colbert-Busch won’t win in the general election – Scott won with 62 percent in 2012 – but the GOP would be foolish not to keep an eye on her.

The Republican primary field is crowded and has plenty of sharp elbows. The candidates, in alphabetical order, are:  Keith W. Blandford; former Charleston County councilman Curtis Bostic“Ric” Bryant; state Senaator Larry GroomsJonathan HoffmanJeff King; former state senator John Kuhn; Tim Larkin; state Rep. Harry B. “Chip” Limehouse, III; state Rep. Peter Michael McCoy, Jr.’ Charleston County School Board trustee Elizabeth Moffly; former Dorchester County sheriff Ray W. Nash, Jr.; state Rep. Andy PatrickShawn Pinkston; former governor Mark Sanford; and Robert E. “Teddy” Turner, IV.

Tomorrow’s election really amounts to “the race to get into the runoff with Mark Sanford.” The former governor has enormous advantages in name ID and political connections in the district.

One ally of Mark Sanford who is close to the former governor characterizes the race as “wide-open for second place – big question is whether or not Chip Limehouse’s over-the-top attacks against Teddy Turner have worked.  Would not be at all surprised to see several candidates within a percentage point of each other for that second place position.”

Another characterizes it as, “hard to say. I think the second spot goes to either Turner, Limehouse, or Bostic. Kuhn and Grooms seem to have fallen back a bit.”

Tommy Hatfield, the former Beaufort County Republican party vice chairman argues that the geography of the district will be key. He told me, “I believe it will be Sanford and Patrick. . . . Sanford is well known and reasonably well respected by most of the voters in the entire district. Patrick is getting a lot of support and endorsements in Beaufort County where other than Sanford, the other candidates are not well known. The other 14 candidates are all from the greater Charleston area, and will probably split that region’s votes among them.”

Tags: Andy Patrick , Chip Limehouse , Mark Sanford , South Carolina , Teddy Turner

A New GOP Challenger for Lindsey Graham in 2014?


Bruce Carroll, who blogs at GayPatriot, is stepping down from GOProud to explore a primary challenge to South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham.

If Carroll goes forward with this, he will have to complete a Statement of Intention of Candidacy (SIC) form with the state GOP and a Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) form with the State Ethics Commission. The filing period does not begin until March 16, 2014, and closes March 30.

He will have to submit a filing fee of 1 percent of the annual salary of the office multiplied by the number of years in the term of office (or $100, whichever is greater). This year the salary for a U.S. senator is $174,000, so if it remains the same for 2014, the filing fee will be $10,440.

However, the difficulty of beating Graham in a primary should not be underestimated, as Shawn Drury notes:

Last month, Winthrop University published a poll that showed Graham with an approval/disapproval rating of 71.6/17.4 among Republicans. Among all voters it was 58.4/41.6. Those poll numbers came out after the Club For Growth named Graham its top target in 2014.

. . . no South Carolina Senator who served a full term has lost a re-election campaign since Coleman Bease in 1930.

Being the incumbent is not a small advantage, chiefly when it comes to raising money, something that Graham is very good at. Before he’s even officially declared that he’ll seek re-election Graham has at least $4.4 million in his campaign coffers.

Of course, challengers tend to make an impact whether they win their primary or not, as some GOP senators shift to the right in the presence of a declared conservative challenger in their state primary:

After receiving an 88 percent rating from the Club for Growth political action committee in 2009, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah jumped to 100 percent in 2010 and then 99 percent in 2011.

Tags: Bruce Carroll , Lindsey Graham , South Carolina

Should the Right Forgive Mark Sanford?


The Morning Jolt returns today, with a look at Obama’s “Fore!” more years, a controversy or two with this year’s CPAC, and then this question for the Right percolating in South Carolina:

A Question, Mark

I lived in Washington, D.C. when Marion Barry was elected to his fourth term as mayor — after his infamous crack pipe video, conviction on possession of cocaine, and six months in prison. I was pretty unenthusiastic about the mayor who had presided over Washington’s reign as the “murder capital of the world” returning to office, but I saw a silver lining: maybe he would provide a national example that drug use doesn’t have to mean a ruined life and that anyone can come back from their life’s lowest moment.

Of course, Marion Barry went on to be an awful mayor in his fourth term, with city services remaining as dysfunctional, wasteful, and unresponsive as ever.

I’m hoping the comeback bid of Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina now running for Congress in the special election in that state’s First Congressional District, will have a happier ending.

He was kind enough to give me his first interview as a candidate last month. I like the thought that you can make a colossal mistake with your life and come back from it. Lord knows, the world is full of people who make terrible judgments, who do things they wish they hadn’t, who say things they wish they hadn’t, and wish they could have an opportunity to show that their lives and their life’s work is more than their worst moment, their most egregious decision.

However, that trust has to be re-earned. You have to accept the consequences and make amends. I don’t know Sanford well enough to tell voters ‘yes, he’s done that’ or ‘no, he hasn’t’, and everyone probably has their own personal measuring stick for that. Ultimately, this is up to the voters in South Carolina’s First District.

Obviously, the “if” in “if Sanford can go on to have a productive second career, representing his constituents well” is a big one. But I think we all could use a prominent example of redemption and forgiveness at times like these…

Sanford unveiled a new ad Monday:

Washington’s math doesn’t add up, and so for years while many have talked, I’ve fought to do something about it – I’ve cut spending, reduced debt and made government more accountable.

More recently I’ve experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes.

But in their wake we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances and be the better for it.

In that light I humbly step forward and ask for your help in changing Washington.

I’m Mark Sanford, and I approved this message.

One person who is persuaded is Erick Erickson of Red State:

Conservatives take the hardest line and exile their own who have failed them to the sidelines.

They should. We have values and when those values are betrayed by those who fight with us, we must often show them tough love and show them the door.

But we do a terrible job with forgiveness and rehabilitation. Mark Sanford walked out of the Governor’s Mansion and out of public life for a while. He comes back as conservatives in Congress are fighting on all fronts, out numbered, depressed, and needing every man capable of manning the ramparts.

Mark Sanford can man the ramparts. Unlike his opponents, he has a stellar and uncompromising record as a limited government, pro-life, fiscal conservative.

I am willing to forgive him. And I’m willing to be graceful. We need him. There’s no better alternative. He’s with us. I endorse him without reservation. I hope the voters of South Carolina will show him grace and put him back in the fight at this desperate hour for fiscal conservatives.

Speaking for the skeptics, Jen Rubin:

South Carolina’s disgraced and disgraceful Mark Sanford — who lied to his staff and the public, went “walking on the Appalachian Trail,” told no one of his whereabouts and wrecked his family – is running for Congress. He is madly playing for sympathy, telling crowds, “I am equally aware that God forgives people who are imperfect.” This raises the question as to whether the people of South Carolina should forgive him, and moreover, whether forgiveness entails entrusting him with a new public office.

He’d like to characterize his misdeeds as “personal,” but they were anything but. As you may recall, Sanford used public funds for a tryst. This is a small-government conservative careful with the taxpayers’ money? Moreover, he doubled down on his misbehavior, insisting for some time that he had used his own funds. Eventually, he was forced to repay $9,000.

There is no reason the taxpayers should feel obliged to put such a character back in government. It is a measure how odd social conservatives have become that they would disown a candidate who favored gay marriage but rise to the defense of a home-wrecker and abuser of public funds.

During the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, some of us marveled at how many Americans were strikingly hesitant to see the president removed – it’s not like a President Gore would have pursued significantly different policies. One explanation at the time was that a lot of Americans had done something they regretted, and sex was probably a factor in those bad judgments.

Tags: Mark Sanford , South Carolina

The Sweet 16 in South Carolina’s First District


Down in South Carolina, FreedomWorks will sponsor a candidate forum with all 16 Republican candidates competing in the special House election primary.

“Each candidate will have the opportunity to present opening and closing statements, with a series of questions prepared by representatives of local grassroots organizations across the District” — briefly, presumably, since they need to have time for all 16!

Candidates participating in the forum will include: Mark Sanford, Teddy Turner, Peter McCoy, Larry Grooms, Curtis Bostic, Ray Nash, Elizabeth Moffley, Shawn Pinkston, Andy Patrick, John Kuhn, Keith Blandford, Jeff King, Jonathan Hoffman, Tim Larkin, Chip Limehouse, and Ric Bryant.

The candidate forum will be held on Saturday, beginning at 2 p.m., at the Embassy Suites Hotel Convention Center in North Charleston.

The primary is March 19, with a runoff on April 2 if no one receives 50 percent; the general election is May 7.

Tags: Andy Patrick , Chip Limehouse , Mark Sanford , South Carolina , Special Elections , Teddy Turner

Thirteen Will Compete in South Carolina GOP House Primary


Filing for South Carolina’s special House election closes at noon today.

A small crowd of Republicans are running; in alphabetical order, they are Keith W. Blandford, former Charleston County councilman Curtis Bostic, state senator Larry Grooms, Jonathan Hoffman, Jeff King, former state representative John Kuhn, state representative Chip Limehouse, state representative Peter McCoy, Charleston County School Board trustee Elizabeth Moffly, former Dorchester County sheriff Ray Nash, state representative Andy Patrick, former governor Mark Sanford, and Teddy Turner, son of mogul Ted Turner.

Three candidates have filed on the Democratic side: Elizabeth Colbert-Busch (the sister of television comedian Stephen Colbert), Bobbie Rose, and Martin Skelly.

If no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary, the two top-finishing candidates will compete in a runoff April 2. The general election is May 7.

Tags: Andy Patrick , Chip Limehouse , Mark Sanford , South Carolina , Teddy Turner

Teddy Turner, Turned Conservative by Moscow


Teddy Turner, the son of mogul Ted Turner, is among the Republicans competing in South Carolina’s first congressional district. He’s unveiled his first ad, declaring, “he went there (Moscow) to work as a cameraman, and returned a congressman.”

Tags: South Carolina , Teddy Turner

Mark Sanford, Now Running for Congress


Over on the home page, I have former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford’s first interview as candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the summer of 2009, the concept of Sanford attempting a political comeback by running for Congress.seemed laughable. His image changed overnight from perhaps the staunchest fiscal conservative among the nation’s governors to a national laughingstock when it was revealed that he had departed the state to fly to Argentina to meet with his mistress. Sanford’s mess was exacerbated by a plethora of embarrassing details — his bizarre cover story of “hiking the Appalachian trail,” his public declaration that the Argentinian woman was his “soul mate,” and the sight of the governor’s soon-to-be ex-wife and children moving out of the governor’s mansion.

But after the scandal revelation, things didn’t turn out quite so bad for Sanford. He managed to avoid impeachment; a state legislative ad hoc committee voted to censure but not impeach him. His favored successor, Governor Nikki Haley, scored an upset win in a hard-fought GOP gubernatorial primary and went on to win the general election in 2010. In 2012, he got engaged to the woman in Argentina, Maria Belen Chapur, and Sanford says their wedding is slated for late summer.

Now Sanford is preparing his political comeback in the district recently represented by Representative Tim Scott. Haley appointed Scott to replace Senator Jim DeMint. And as surprising as it may seem, Sanford has several advantages in the coming race.

The field for the upcoming GOP House primary promises to be crowded, with several families who are prominent in state and national politics represented: State representative Harry “Chip” Limehouse III, son of longtime state transportation head Harry “Buck” Limehouse, and Robert “Teddy” Turner IV, son of mogul Ted Turner. State representative Andy Patrick is also running, and throw in former state senator John Kuhn.

South Carolina’s first congressional district takes in all or part of Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, and Dorchester counties, and is a heavily Republican district. In 2012, Scott won, 62 percent to 33 percent.

With only ten weeks to the primary and twelve weeks to a runoff, the race is best considered a sprint rather than a marathon; candidates will have little time to build up name recognition. As the best-known candidate, with a decent number of South Carolina Republicans still feeling relatively positive about him — a December statewide survey from Public Policy Polling put Sanford with a 39 percent favorable rating and a 44 percent unfavorable rating among Republicans — Sanford is quite likely to get one of the largest slices of a much-divided GOP electorate.

Sanford told me his own polling of the district, conducted in recent days, found him with a higher favorable rating than unfavorable rating.

The coming weeks are certain to see the national political focus upon the debt ceiling — a topic that Sanford fans believe helps strengthen the argument for their man, as Sanford’s unpopularity was driven by his personal failings, not his political stances or policies. And if South Carolinians are bothered by runaway debt and spending in the coming months, Sanford will have a solid record to showcase.

Here’s how the Cato Institute summarized Sanford’s reign, awarding him one of only four “A” ratings they gave in 2010:

Mark Sanford of South Carolina has been a staunch supporter of spending restraint and pro-growth tax reforms. In 2005, he cut the top income tax rate for small businesses from 7 percent to 5 percent, and in 2007 he signed into law sales and income tax cuts. Sanford has proposed replacing the state’s income tax with a flat tax, and he has urged legislators to adopt a legal cap on the state’s budget growth. He has also proposed phasing out the state’s corporate income tax. On spending, Sanford’s budgets have been very frugal. In fiscal 2010, South Carolina’s general fund spending was expected to be slightly less than spending in Sanford’s first year in office, fiscal 2003.

Sanford might have been more effective at getting proposed reforms passed if he hadn’t made political and personal mistakes, but he gets a lot of credit for trying to cut government and make the state’s tax code more competitive.

He has also a flair for the theatrical; in 2004, after the Republican-led state house of representatives overrode Sanford’s budget vetoes, Sanford brought live pigs into the house chamber as a visual protest against “pork projects.”

But he still has that glaring scandal of a few years back to overcome. Sanford spoke at great length when asked, “What would you say to voters who are troubled by the events of 2009?” Clearly, his opponents will want his candidacy to be defined by that, while he will hope they focus on his stances and what he could do in Congress.

Tags: Mark Sanford , South Carolina

Thurmond Won’t Run for Congress in Tim Scott’s District


Down in South Carolina, one Republican lawmaker with a famous name is declaring that he’s not interested in running for the seat soon to be vacated by Tim Scott, who will become the Palmetto State’s newest senator next Wednesday.

Some contenders already are bowing out, including newly elected state Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston.

Thurmond said Monday he was humbled by the number of people asking him to run but that he could best serve his District 41 constituents by ending speculation that he will seek the seat being vacated soon by Rep. Tim Scott.

Thurmond came closest to Scott in the crowded GOP congressional primary in 2010, and he was among almost two dozen possible Republican candidates to seek the seat again, Charleston County Chair Lin Bennett said.

Thurmond is, of course, the son of the late Senator Strom Thurmond, who represented the state in the Senate for 48 years.

Filing for the vacated congressional seat will begin at noon on Jan. 18 and continue for ten days. The primary is scheduled for March 19 — right now, there is only one Democrat interested in running, state representative Wendell Gilliard, of Charleston — and the general election for the seat will be on May 7. It will be the first major election conducted under the state’s new photo-ID law.

The Post and Courier lists the small army of candidates being mentioned on the Republican side:

On the GOP side, potential candidates include former Gov. Mark Sanford and his ex-wife, former first lady Jenny Sanford; state Sens. Chip Campsen and Larry Grooms; state Reps. Chip Limehouse, Peter McCoy, Jim Merrill and Andy Patrick; Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey; Dorchester County Councilman Jay Byars; Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings; Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Ken Glasson; former state Sen. John Kuhn; former Charleston County School Board member Larry Kabrovsky; former Charleston County Council members Curtis Bostic and Joe McKeown; and Lowcountry businessmen Keith Blandford, Carroll Campbell, Mark Lutz, Bob Menges and Teddy Turner.

Turner already has a basic web site up and running.

Tags: Paul Thurmond , South Carolina , Tim Scott

Nikki Haley Picks Tim Scott for U.S. Senate


Multiple media sources are reporting that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will indeed name Rep. Tim Scott to be the next senator from South Carolina.

Scott will serve for two years, and then presumably run in a special election in 2014. If reelected, he would serve an additional two years (the remaining two years of the six-year term Jim DeMint was elected to in 2010) and then potentially run again for a full-six year term in 2016.

Tim Scott will instantly become a major figure in the GOP, as the lone African-American Republican in Congress. (The symbolism of Scott representing the home state of Strom Thurmond in the Senate, after beating Thurmond’s son in his first U.S. House race, is quite powerful.) He is a genuine rising star in South Carolina politics, with Southern charisma to spare, punctuating his Obama critiques this past year with bursts of “hit the road, Jack.”

But South Carolina doesn’t lack Republicans with ambition, and those who aspire to the Senate will have a choice in 2014: challenge the appointed Sen. Tim Scott (and run the risk of a white challenger unseating the party’s the lone black representative) or take on the other incumbent, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has periodically irked conservatives over the years but also spent recent years trying to win those conservative constituents back.

South Carolina does not get polled often, but Public Policy Polling found this month that 47 percent have a favorable opinion of Tim Scott, only 13 percent unfavorable, and 40 percent unsure.

UPDATE: I’m hearing that DeMint is likely to formally resign the Senate on Jan. 2 and that Scott, along with all of the other new senators who were elected in November, will be sworn in on Jan. 3.

Tags: Nikki Haley , South Carolina , Tim Scott

Time for Dick Harpootlian to Go


If we had a press that had even the vaguest sense of even-handedness, there would be loud cries for the resignation for either of the TWO Democratic state-party chairs who comparing their opposition to Nazis.

Today’s comment, in case you missed it:

S.C. Democratic Chairman Dick Harpootlian, never a loss for a quick quip, tossed a few stinging one-liners at the Wednesday delegation breakfast.

On Gov. Nikki Haley participating in daily news briefings in a basement studio at the NASCAR Hall of Fame: “She was down in the bunker a la Eva Braun.”

Earlier this week, California state Democratic-party chairman John Burton invoked Goebbels’s “Big Lie” in denouncing what he insisted were lies on the part of Paul Ryan. Most of the time, when a public figure makes the Gobbels comparison, it represents a speaker wanting to say something like, “Hey, that guy is really, really lying,” but who also finds it convenient to implicitly suggest that the opponent’s agenda is genocidal.

The comment from Harpootlian is much worse, because the only thing Haley did that he can compare to Hitler’s mistress is be in a basement. Thus, in Harpootlian’s mind, anyone who has ever been in a basement can be fairly compared to a woman who slept with Hitler. I suppose we should be thankful that he didn’t say Haley was in the basement . . . just like Hitler himself.

This doesn’t even get into the fact that we’ve got a white male party chairman comparing the country’s second Indian-American governor to a member of a movement that advocated the genetic superiority of the Aryan race. There’s no policy criticism, no criticism of her agenda or ideas within that remark; he just wanted to associate the governor with a Nazi figure and so he charged right ahead.

Sometimes a racially charged comment will have dire consequences for one’s career: Trent Lott and Don Imus come to mind. Other times, the media and public just shrug their shoulders and move on. Harry Reid can marvel at Barack Obama’s lack of a “negro accent” with no real consequence. Bill Clinton can describe Obama to Ted Kennedy as a “guy [who] would have been getting us coffee” not long ago with no real consequence. Hillary Clinton faced accusations of racism for appearing to diminish the accomplishments of Martin Luther King in comparison to Lyndon Johnson — until the Democratic primary ended, and then no liberal had much reason to stir the controversy further. Joe Biden can utter awful stereotypical jokes about Indians running 7-11s and Dunkin’ Donuts with no major repercussion. The president’s mentor trafficked in explicit racial insults — referring to Italians as “garlic noses” — and the topic was deemed irrelevant by many. And of course, there is the former recruiter of the Ku Klux Klan who used the n-word on national television with little major repercussion.

The ability of Democratic officials to make racial remarks, or to use incendiary rhetoric, and avoid consequence is entirely a conscious decision on the collective national news media to find little or nothing newsworthy in these remarks — compared to a week of, say, Todd Akin coverage.

Tags: Dick Harpootlian , Nikki Haley , South Carolina

Rick Santorum’s Family Help in Hilton Head, S.C.


Earlier this week, the Hilton Head, S.C., First Monday Club — a group I’ve been lucky enough to address several times — met and held an informal straw poll.

The results: Newt Gingrich 34, Mitt Romney 30, Rick Santorum — whose brother, Dan Santorum, lives on Hilton Head, and who spoke at the meeting — 22, Ron Paul 1, Rick Perry 1. No one in attendance preferred Jon Huntsman.

They also asked the assembled Republicans who they liked among the options for the vice-presidential running mate, and the name most frequently mentioned was . . . Marco Rubio.

Santorum will be campaigning through this part of the state today, stopping at Sun City, Hilton Head, Beaufort, and Charleston.

Tags: Newt Gingrich , Rick Santorum , South Carolina

Romney, the Weak Frontrunner Who Leads Everywhere


Mitt Romney’s rivals took aim at him in the Sunday-morning debate, but it’s hard to see a scenario where he loses all of his currently gargantuan lead in New Hampshire: 20 percentage points, 24 percentage points, 15 percentage points, 24 percentage points, and 17 percentage points in the past five polls.

Then there’s South Carolina, the kind of conservative, heavily evangelical state one would expect Romney to have a tougher time in . . . where Romney leads by 7 percentage points, 3 percentage points, and 18 percentage points in the last three polls.

Then there’s Florida, where Quinnipiac is out with new results this morning:

With 36 percent of Florida Republican likely primary voters, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a double-digit lead three weeks before the nation’s first big-state presidential primary, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. But 54 percent of GOP primary voters say they still might change their mind.

Twelve points back in the Republican pack is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 24 percent, followed by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 16 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University survey finds. Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul is at 10 percent with 5 percent for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and 2 percent for former ambassador Jon Huntsman. This first look at likely primary voters, a more select group, can’t be compared with earlier surveys of registered voters.

After that, it’s Nevada, which hasn’t been polled lately, but in mid-December, a survey had Romney at 33 percent, Gingrich at 29 percent, and Paul at 12 percent.

For a weak frontrunner, Mitt Romney sure leads in a lot of places.

Here’s more perspective: Since January 1, only one poll of the GOP field showed Romney trailing . . . anywhere, the PPP poll of Iowa that put Ron Paul up by one percentage point. That’s out of 21 polls of the nation, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida.

Tags: Florida , Mitt Romney , Nevada , Polling , South Carolina

War-Gaming the GOP Early Contests, Six Weeks Out


I join my NR colleagues on the cruise tomorrow, but for the week, a thought or two, war-gaming out the upcoming GOP primaries . . .

It is mid-November. Iowa Republicans vote in their caucus on January 3, roughly six weeks away.

And we’re still not sure if Mitt Romney is going to make a serious push at Iowa. (Increasingly, it appears he will; the Des Moines Register writes about evangelicals giving him a second look here.)

It’s almost unthinkable that a candidate who has a decent shot at winning the first contest wouldn’t choose to make a serious effort to win, but we live in strange times. Romney has visited only four times so far, but in the RealClearPolitics average, he trails Herman Cain by six tenths of a percentage point; Romney’s been a solid second in most polls and leads in the most recent CNN/Time survey.

At first glance, Romney has to compete. How would you describe a candidate who chose to not try to win the first contest when he’s barely behind because it wasn’t part of his campaign’s original scripted strategy? Hesitant? Too cautious? Cowardly? A half-hearted effort in Iowa, and a decision to keep the Romney campaign’s focus on New Hampshire, would be the most small-c conservative approach to campaigning in recent memory.

And yet . . . winning Iowa might set up its own problem for Romney. The recent history of presidential primaries suggests that the purpose of New Hampshire is to negate Iowa. In fact, the best way to ensure you lose New Hampshire appears to be to win Iowa:

2008: Iowa winner: Mike Huckabee. New Hampshire winner: John McCain.

2000: Iowa winner: George W. Bush. New Hampshire winner: John McCain.

1996: Iowa winner: Bob Dole. New Hampshire winner: Pat Buchanan.

1988: Iowa winner: Bob Dole. New Hampshire winner: George H.W. Bush.

1980: Iowa winner: George H. W. Bush. New Hampshire winner: Ronald Reagan.

This is a bipartisan phenomenon; look at the Democrats:

2008: Iowa winner: Barack Obama. New Hampshire winner: Hillary Clinton.

2004: Iowa winner: John Kerry. New Hampshire winner: John Kerry.

1992: Iowa winner: Tom Harkin. New Hampshire winner: Paul Tsongas.

1984: Iowa winner: Walter Mondale. New Hampshire winner: Gary Hart.

(Yes, John Kerry somehow did what no other non-incumbent, non-vice-president candidate has done since 1980.)

If Romney wins Iowa, will New Hampshire voters be determined to reject Iowa’s choice?

Obviously, as they say in those investment-fund commercials, past performance does not predict future results. And Romney’s lead in New Hampshire has been huge and consistent. But consciously or subconsciously, New Hampshire voters hate to confirm the choice of Iowa. If the Granite State rubber-stamps the choice of the Iowa caucus-goers, won’t that make Iowa even more important four years later? If Iowa is the real contest, why would candidates and campaigns shower New Hampshire voters with visits and attention and ads and spending?

Herman Cain is still doing well in New Hampshire, and this is one of Ron Paul’s stronger states. But one of the candidates who have done reasonably well here is . . . Jon Huntsman — until now, mostly an afterthought and punch-line of this campaign.

Huntsman is so thoroughly determined to demonstrate his devotion to the New Hampshire voters that he alone can say, “I boycotted candidate debates for you.” Remember, there will be no significant Democratic presidential primary, and unaffiliated voters can and do vote in party primaries. (The deadline to switch your party registration for the presidential primary was October 14.) Granite State residents can register to vote until January 3.

So suppose Romney wins Iowa, New Hampshire is determined to avoid a coronation, and so the independents and Democrats cross over and fuel Huntsman to a New Hampshire primary victory. (It feels like that kind of an unpredictable, wild-unexpected-swing cycle, no?) Then the action would move to South Carolina, where conservatives would probably be apoplectic at the thought that the top two contenders for the GOP nomination were Romney, derided as an unprincipled flip-flopper, and then Huntsman, widely perceived to be the one guy clearly to the left of Romney. They would then consolidate around one of the remaining Not-Mitt, Not-Jon options . . .

Right now, the leading Not-Mitt option is Herman Cain. But by January 21, Herman Cain may look a little weaker, depending on how he finishes in Iowa and whether the harassment claims stick to him. So currently running third in South Carolina is . . . Newt Gingrich. If Iowa’s results knock out Bachmann or Santorum, and if Perry is widely perceived to be kaput . . . wouldn’t Gingrich be in the best position to win over their supporters? And if Cain’s backers waver, wouldn’t Gingrich, the fellow Georgian, be a likely second choice for them?

Under this scenario, Republicans would go to the polls on January 31 in Florida, with a winner-take-all primary, with three winners in three primaries: Romney in Iowa, Huntsman in New Hampshire, and Gingrich in South Carolina.

Tags: Herman Cain , Iowa , Jon Huntsman , Mitt Romney , New Hampshire , Newt Gingrich , South Carolina

The Unofficial Deadline for Declaring a Presidential Bid: November 1


So how late can a Rick Perry*, or Sarah Palin, or “Candidate X” wait before jumping into the race?

If we presume that an aspiring Republican president would want to appear on the ballot, and not be forced to try to run a write-in campaign — a pretty safe bet, no? — then we can look at the deadlines for filing to appear on the primary ballots.

In the Iowa caucus, caucusgoers are given blank sheets of paper on which to write the names of their preferred candidates, so there is no “filing” per se for candidates.

In New Hampshire, the filing deadline to appear on the ballot for the presidential primary is November 21.

In South Carolina, the state GOP informs me that the filing deadline for the Republican presidential primary is November 1.

Nevada is a caucus, and thus there is no formal “filing” of candidates.

Back in 2008, the earliest filing deadlines were in Utah (October 14), Florida (October 31), and Michigan (October 23); you’ll recall the controversy that surrounded Michigan’s and Florida’s early primaries.

Presuming that no Republican wants to concede South Carolina — the winner of the Palmetto State primary has always gone on to win the nomination — then the real deadline for getting into the race is November 1 — a mere 105 days away.

* Perry’s decision is expected within the next few weeks.

UPDATE: Tim Hagle, associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa, writes in to clarify: “In your post you note that Iowa caucus-goers are given blank sheets of paper to fill in names.  That’s not quite true.  Whether it’s done by the state party, the county party, or a candidate’s organization there’s usually some type of ballot that lists all the folks that are in the race.  You are correct that there’s no filing deadline of any sort, but to get on such a ballot someone must probably have declared as a presidential candidate.  An undeclared candidate like Palin might get on, but someone officially undeclared is more likely left to write in status.”

Tags: 2012 , Primaries , Rick Perry , Sarah Palin , South Carolina

It Takes Money... Just to Get on the Ballot


This article about a York, South Carolina nurse running for president included an interesting detail about the South Carolina presidential primary:

“I am standing up for what I believe in,” [Michael] Adkins said.  “This country is what I believe in.”

Adkins admitted he does not know how he will raise funds for the campaign.  Just to get on the ballot in South Carolina for the GOP presidential primary, he will have to pay a sizable filing fee.  The exact fee for 2012 has not yet been determined, but for perspective, it cost $35,000 for candidates to be on the South Carolina GOP presidential primary ballot in 2008.

Tags: South Carolina

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