Each Republican faces a different challenge in S.C.

TO ALL THE candidates seeking the presidency of the United States of America: Welcome to South Carolina. Iowa is behind you; so is New Hampshire, and we understand that we are to have your undivided attention for the next couple of weeks, which is gratifying.
    So let’s take advantage of the opportunity. The South Carolina primaries have little purpose unless we learn more about you than we have thus far, so we have a few matters we’d like you to address while you’re here.
    Let’s do Republicans first, since y’all face S.C. voters first (on the 19th) and come back to the Democrats (after the cliffhanger night Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton just went through, they could probably do with a rest today).
    We’d like some specifics beyond the vehement claims that pretty much each and every one of you is “the real conservative” in the race.
    We’ll start with John McCain, the big winner in New Hampshire Tuesday.
You’re a war hero, and you’ve got the most experience in national defense and foreign affairs. You take a back seat to no one in fighting government waste. You were for a “surge” in Iraq long before the White House even considered the idea, and you weren’t afraid to say so. It’s no surprise that you lead among retired military officers, and others who have been there and done that.
    But folks who are not retired would like some reassurance that the oldest man in the race, with a spotty medical history, is up to the world’s most demanding job.
    Most of all, though, South Carolinians need to better understand your position on immigration. You’re the one who decided to try to lead on this radioactive issue in the middle of a campaign, and plenty of folks around here don’t like the direction you chose. Start explaining.
    Next, Mike Huckabee. You have qualities that Sen. McCain lacks: You’re (relatively) young, fresh, new and exciting. As a Baptist preacher, you’re definitely in sync with S.C. Republicans on cultural issues. More than that, you are on the cutting edge of a new kind of Republicanism, one that is more attuned to the concerns of ordinary working people, from health care to education.
    But let’s look at some headlines from this week: The U.S. Navy almost had to blow some Iranian gunboats out of the water. Hundreds are dead in Kenya, one of the few African countries we’d thought immune to such political violence. Pakistan, nuclear power and current address of Osama bin Laden, continues to teeter on the edge of chaos after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. I could go on.
    Every day, something that threatens the security of this country happens in yet another hot spot, calling for a depth of knowledge and experience for which on-the-job training is no substitute. Those blank looks you’ve given when asked about current events are disturbing. Reassure us. We know you don’t get daily intelligence briefings yet, but you could at least read the paper.
    Mitt Romney, you come across as Central Casting’s idea of a Republican: Perfect coif, square jaw, a private-sector portfolio that confirms your can-do credentials. Moreover, as governor of Massachusetts you presided over health care reform that many other states are looking to as a model.
    But increasingly, 21st century Republicans are less impressed by a business suit, and I think you’ll find South Carolinians a lot like Iowans in that regard. You’ve got to have more to offer.
    Also, voters here would like to hear more positive reasons to vote for you, and less about what’s wrong with everybody else. In all the years since I’ve been getting e-mails, I have never seen anything like the blizzard of releases from your folks trashing this or that rival.
    After the nasty whispering campaign that sank Sen. McCain in 2000, South Carolinians have had a bellyful of the whole “going negative” thing. Just forget the other guys, and tell us what’s good about you.
    As for Rudy Giuliani, we know you’re a tough guy, and a tough guy can be a good thing to have in the White House. You inspired the nation through some of Gotham’s darkest days, and you took on all Five Families at once as a mob-busting federal prosecutor, which is why John Gotti and some others on the Commission wanted to have you whacked. You’re definitely a man of respect.
    But if you do bother to campaign down here, South Carolina Republicans might be forgiven for wondering whether you’re one of them. You were doing OK in polls a couple of months ago, but let’s face it — that was just the early national media buzz, and we’ve gotten past that.
    You need to do some fast talking — we hear New Yorkers are good at that — about some of those “cultural issues” that, to put it mildly, distinguish you from candidates who happen to be Baptist preachers.
    Finally, Fred Thompson — you certainly have no need for a translator. As your wife, Jeri, reminded me when she dropped by our office Tuesday, you speak fluent Southern.
    But there’s a reason y’all were campaigning down here rather than up in New Hampshire: After the biggest “will he or won’t he” buildup in modern political history, your campaign failed to catch fire nationally after it finally got rolling.
    That could be because, while you can play a “conservative” well on TV, you have yet to communicate exactly what you bring to the campaign that other candidates don’t bring more of. Are you better on national security than McCain, or more in tune on abortion than Huckabee? And if what the party was crying out for was a guy who was tough enough on immigration (as your supporters keep telling me), why didn’t it go for Tom Tancredo?
    Once again, welcome one and all to the Palmetto State. Whether you go on from here may depend in large part on how you answer the above questions.
For my blog, go to http://blogs.thestate.com/bradwarthensblog/.

14 thoughts on “Each Republican faces a different challenge in S.C.

  1. Doug Ross

    At least you’re transparent in your bias.
    I guess the paragraph about Ron Paul ended up on the cutting room floor even though he beat Rudy in Iowa and Thompson in NH.
    Have you contacted the Paul campaign to schedule an interview?
    Also, McCain has a whole lot more to explain than his age and his amnesty program for illegal immigrants. What’s his position on tax cuts? And I wonder if he’ll have the “cojones” this time around to answer the question about the Confederate Flag with some of that Straight Talk the media loves about him?

  2. Leo

    One thing you left out about Mayor Giuliani is that his strategy is to ignore Southerners and ask big state yankees and California to nominate him for the GOP. If that works, then he’ll ask us to “overlook” his liberal social agenda and give him a pass instead of vote for a Democrat.
    If he thinks he can win the general without the South, he should look at the polls in NY, CA, etc. and remember that they haven’t been the most “Republican” of states over the last two decades.

  3. bud

    How about these for McCain:
    Senator, you’ve stated publicly that you would be willing to stay in Iraq for 100 years if necessary to help secure that country. Given the fact that hundreds of Iraqis continue to die in sectarian violence every month how can you justify this expensive and counterproductive endevour that most experts recognize is actually making our long-term security much worse.
    For Huckabee:
    Governor, you raised your hand when asked whether you had doubts about the theory of evolution. Since this is the generally accepted theory for our existence as a species how can anyone really take you seriously about anything?
    Or Rudi:
    Mayor, you’ve led quite a dishonest personal life having cheated on each of your first two wives and using city assets to arrange rendevoues with your now third wife while still married to your second wife. Given the difficulty Bill Clinton had dealing with a far less bizarre personal life how can you expect the public to have any respect for you as their leader?

  4. S Benn

    Senator Fred Thompson offers integrity to the race. You think they all do? Go to factcheck.org and see all the mis-quotes, mistakes, or out-in-out lies that the other candidates have made. Fred has the National Right to Life endorsement for a reason…he is the one who has always been pro-life. Some candidates are caught on flip-flopping on various topics but not Senator Thompson. He has been a true conservative all his life. His does not give generalizations or sound bites on the major issues like the war, the economy, taxes, social security, health care, education and so more! Check these issues out at http://www.fred08.com

  5. david whetsell

    If you don’t cover ALL the candidates,you are no different than any other socialist who wants the people to vote for the one’s you want elected. When the goverment you get elected starts telling you what to print,when to print,how much they will pay you. If you do not do what they want,they put you in jail like a lot of other socialist countries. (Russa,China and Venezuela)

  6. media Failed Americans

    Cable news pundits may have successfully predicted John McCain’s victory in New Hampshire, but they sure had a lot of explaining to do around 10:30 p.m., once The Associated Press and MSNBC projected victory for Hillary Rodham Clinton. “The polls were so wrong. So off,” MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said. Perhaps exaggerating slightly, Olbermann added, “Two cable news networks actually predicted this outcome after Sen. Obama conceded.” Chris Matthews, co-anchoring the evening broadcast on MSNBC, told Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson an hour later, “I will never underestimate Hillary Clinton again.”
    It was that kind of night for the punditocracy. So how do the media come back after being so far off? “I think the people are going to make some judgments about us,” Brokaw said. It is quite possible that voters, who were barraged in the past days with reports about how Obama was cruising to a double-digit victory, already have.
    pundits were irresponsible in predicting Obama would win by 15 points or more just two days ago. There should be an investigation into that. Did these pundits have some hidden agendas? FOX NEWS and MSNBC
    pundants and media should stop trying to control what our society thinks and how we vote and stick to reporting facts. It’s sickening to hear all the endless chatter about polls and projections.
    A major result of this election season so far is to demonstrate how damaging an unfiltered, unbroken media stream can be. Faced with filling endless space, journalists write endless nonsense… it is deeply harmful to efforts to elect the best possible leaders.”
    What arrested obama’s surge is the fact that a lot of people can see whose side the press is on. The favoritism is sickening. No one wants a candidate shoved down their throat.”

  7. Brad Warthen

    Doug (way back up at the top), transparency has always been my main goal in writing columns, and that goes double for my blog. Why on Earth would I spend this time doing this otherwise?

    No invitation has been extended to Ron Paul — or to Dennis Kucinich, Tom Tancredo, Mike Gravel or Duncan Hunter. But had any of them wanted to come in over the last few months, we would have made time. We’ve already had our interviews with McCain and Huckabee. They did a wild and crazy thing that too few campaigns have done — the accepted back when invitations were first extended to them and the other main candidates. Late summer, as I recall. (You’ll recall that Brownback and Biden also came in — before dropping out.)

    Giuliani, Romney, Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Thompson were all invited way back then, and invitations have been re-extended since then.

    At this point, Giuliani seems to have decided to skip SC, so I’ll be surprised if he comes in before we make our decision on Friday. The one candidate I’m MOST concerned with getting in here before Friday, then, is Romney. I must have talked to four different people in his camp yesterday (some more than once), reiterating our invitation.

    For Romney (and, if a miracle happens, for Giuliani), we will sweep all other work aside to make time. And BECAUSE we’re trying to keep these last few hours open for them, I’m not going to bug Thompson any more (I asked again yesterday when Mr. Thompson was here); nor am I going to extend a last-minute invitation to Dr. Paul. If he had asked before this week to come in (as Thompson did, as recently as the last couple of weeks, although he offered no times, which is why I gave them another chance yesterday), he would have been welcomed.

  8. Doug Ross

    > transparency has always been my main goal
    > in writing columns, and that goes double > for my blog.
    Will you be videotaping your board’s endorsement discussion? It would be interesting to see how the process works.

  9. bud

    Transparency is a fine thing when it comes to printing state employee salaries but apparently not so with employees of the State. For years the State has linked to a database that allows anyone to see what any state worker who makes at least 50k is earning. So why not provide the salaries of the State Newspaper employees who make $50k+? As a quasi-public institution don’t you think the public has a right to know?

  10. Brad Warthen

    I’ll pass that idea on to the folks who possess that information, bud. It’s been days since I’ve made the business-side folks look at me like I’ve lost my mind…

  11. Richard L. Wolfe

    If the press can bs the voters into voting for McCain then my hat is off to you. I noticed you left off campaign finace reform, opposing Bush’s tax cuts, and the Keating 5 out of McCain’s questionaire.
    If S.C. wastes its primary votes on a loser like McCain it won’t be the bloggers fault. Another challenge facing McCain is I don’t believe enough Democrats will cross over to give him a win like in N.H.

  12. Judy

    It is shameful the way the media continues to ignore Duncan Hunter. He is the most consistantly conservative candidate, yet he is ignored. He came in 3rd in the South Carolina straw poll and won the Texas Straw poll. He won a delegate from Wyoming and let’s see, hmmm, Giuliani has none. Yet Giuliani was still invited to the debates. I hope the great people of South Carolina do their research and do not let the media pick a candidate for them. You will find Duncan Hunter to be right on all the issues.

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