Category Archives: S.C. GOP Primary

Well, I voted. Did you? If so, how did it go?

My polling place this morning. And no, I didn't throw Lindsey's sign to the ground. But I thought it interesting that someone had.

My polling place this morning. And no, I didn’t throw Lindsey’s sign to the ground. But I thought it interesting that someone had.

Well, that was easy enough. No lines, everybody wearing masks, walk right in and out. (I mean, as in and out as is possible when you’re as obsessively careful as I am about voting.)

Did you vote today? If so, how did it go for you?

As for how I voted: Well, y’all know that my priority was voting “NO” to that grossly devious effort by the state Republican Party to shut nonpartisans out of the electoral process. I did so, just as firmly and adamantly as my long cotton swab thingy would let me. It’s a wonder I didn’t break the stick.

By the way, I enjoyed Eva Moore’s take on the swabs:

Actually, they had me throw mine away before scanning my completed ballot. Seems to me we missed a big opportunity today. We could have had everyone test themselves for COVID with those after voting.

Anyway, so I voted “no” on that, and on the other, less consequential, “advisory question.” I don’t expect my vote to make the difference. It will probably pass, because of the shamefully deceptive way it is worded. The people who will see that question and fail to understand it far exceed the number I can reach (and persuade) with my blog, and for that matter, that Cindi and the Post and Courier can reach. We can only do so much, when parties stoop to be this sleazy.

Ditto with my votes against Lindsey Graham and Joe Wilson. I went for Joe Reynolds and Michael Bishop — both of whom I believe would do better jobs than the incumbents, if they had a chance. But the real chance — as difficult as that, too, will be — will come in November, when both incumbents have credible Democratic opposition.

I did not vote for either of the guys vying to oppose my senator, Nikki Setzer, nor in the sheriff race. I tried last night, but could not find enough information to be sure which way to go on sheriff. The challenger’s efforts to explain his candidacy were so lame that I had a slight tendency to vote for the incumbent, but I found so little information on him that I couldn’t be confident about it. (He probably has one, but I had trouble even finding a campaign website for Sheriff Koon.)

And I’m not about to ever fall into the “name recognition” fallacy of voting for somebody just because I’ve heard of him. That would be insupportable. I always have reasons — as imperfect as they may be — to vote the way I do.

Anyway, how’d it go for you? I mean, if you voted today. And even if you voted absentee like so many — how did that go?

Vote against S.C. GOP effort to disenfranchise you

File photo from 2018 primary.

File photo from 2018 primary.

I’m voting in the Republican primary on Tuesday. The choice of which primary, of course, was easy. Where I live, there is no Democratic primary this year. Not one contested race.

Not that the choices offered on the GOP ballot are anything to write home about. There are some candidates running against Lindsey Graham and Joe Wilson, but what do you think their chances are? I am going to look more closely into one of the candidates running challenging Graham, after Scout said supportive things about him the other day. But bottom line, on these two positions we DO have good alternatives for once in the fall, so I’m going to be voting for Jaime Harrison and Adair Ford Boroughs. Jaime is an excellent candidate and I’m really pleased to have the privilege of supporting him, and while I don’t know Ms. Boroughs as well, I can tell she’d be better than Joe. Way better.

Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon has opposition, but I know next to nothing about that. There’s the problem that the sheriff of the county I live in just doesn’t make news the way my twin over in Richland County does. He keeps a much lower profile than, say, Jimmy Metts did. So I need to try to get schooled up a bit by Tuesday. If I don’t learn enough to make an informed choice, I’ll skip that race.

But there’s one thing to vote on that I wouldn’t miss, that I would beat down doors to have the chance to have my say on: I’m going to vote against the Republican Party’s effort to take away my right to vote.

Oh, the wording seems innocuous enough, to anyone completely clueless about what’s going on: “Do you support giving voters the right to register to vote with the political party of their choice?”

Golly, who could be against that, right? Shouldn’t we have the right to back any party we want? Well, yeah — and it’s a right we already have, and one that is not even slightly endangered. There is no rule against backing a party, and no such rule is threatened.

What’s threatened here is the rights of those of us who don’t want to support a party, any party. If you know what’s going on, you read the question differently. I read it this way: “Do you support banning people like you from being able to vote?” Anyone who wishes to make his or her own decisions in future elections — rather than surrendering that power to a party — will read it that way.

Of course, what I mean is, vote in primaries. Which, the way Republicans have rigged things through the process of gerrymandering (as Democrats would have done if they’d had the chance, but they don’t, and haven’t had since the science of politicians choosing their voters got really sophisticated), are increasingly the only time we get a choice in who our legislators are.

That’s generally the case in congressional races, too — although as I said, this year is unusual in that Joe Wilson has a pretty good Democratic opponent in November. Of course, he and predecessor Floyd Spence have occasionally had other good opponents over the years (Jim Leventis in 1988, Jane Frederick in 2000) — but the district remains drawn for Republicans, so he still enjoys a great advantage in November.

As Cindi Scoppe explained in an enewsletter (let me know if you have trouble getting that link) the other day:

With obvious exceptions, primaries are probably more important than the general election. That’s because so many contests in South Carolina are decided in the primaries — a result of the GOP domination statewide along with the gerrymandering of congressional, legislative, county council and in too many places even school board district lines. (The gerrymandering sometimes benefits Republicans, sometimes Democrats and never, ever voters.)

But extremists in both parties want to make primaries private affairs, to make sure the nominated candidates are as extreme as possible. Used to be, party leaders opposed these efforts, and most elected officials still do, realizing that the way you win elections in November is by getting people bought into the candidates through the primaries. But the state Republican Party leadership was taken over a few years ago by people who want to stop the rest of us from voting in these most crucial elections unless we swear an oath of allegiance to their party, and again this year they’ve put a deceptively worded question on the GOP primary ballot aimed at locking us out….

Cindi was being rather mild there with that “deceptively worded question.” As the paper Cindi works for now put it in an editorial, it is “a grossly misleading question.” As that editorial continued:

The ballot question is designed by party officials who want to force all of us to register our allegiance to a political party — or else be barred from participating in primaries. The results have no force of law, but if a majority of Republican primary voters say “yes,” those party leaders will use it as ammunition to demand that the Republicans who control the Legislature change long-standing state policy to close the ballot to all but the most partisan among us.

That might not be such a huge problem if we had competitive elections in November, but we rarely do….

Oh, as for the business of this not being binding: Of course it isn’t. If it were an actual referendum, it would have to be worded differently to achieve its aim. But this not a legal device, it’s a political one, meant to achieve a political purpose. In this case, the purpose is to enable the party to say to its members in the General Assembly: How can you vote against our bill to close primaries? Didn’t you see how people asserted their right to partisan identity in the primary? Aren’t you, like them, proud to be a Republican?

The S.C. GOP has a long and shameful history of using this ham-handed device to bludgeon its own members into doing stupid and even terrible things. In case you’re forgotten, Cindi wrote a column a few days back to remind you how Henry McMaster, as party chairman, and other GOP leaders used their 1994 primary to wrap themselves in the Confederate flag for a generation. If you don’t remember that the way I do — as one of the most shameful things I’ve seen in SC politics in a long career — you should probably go read that piece, and be reminded.


Well, it matters to THEM

Someone in the comments back on this post asked,

Why does it matter whom Mr. Warthen and his shrinking enterprise endorse for President?

Of course, there is no modest way for me to answer such assertions. I can only say that it mattered enough to Barack Obama and John McCain to make time to come see us and seek that endorsement. Also to Joe Biden, Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback.

Hillary Clinton opted not to come see us. Whatever happened to her anyway?

Why would Sanford be a disastrous choice for McCain? Don’t get me started

Alternative headline I rejected: "Why I think Mark Sanford is a big phony." I considered that for one reason: It got a lot of attention the last time I applied that thought to a politician, and that’s what this situation calls for. The nonsense we’re hearing about Mark Sanford being considered as a running mate for John McCain is nothing but buzz — buzz that Mr. Sanford himself has carefully laid the groundwork for over the years, stroking media types inside the Beltway while neglecting South Carolina. It’s a thing without substance, amplified by Sunday talk shows. But in politics, buzz begets buzz, and before the volume on this particular noise rises too high, allow me to point out a few things.

Earlier today, I called someone I know who was close to the McCain campaign in South Carolina and said, "Consider this to be a crisis line call. I need you to reassure me of something very quickly…" The person I called laughed, and said, "I know exactly why you’re calling." This person had heard the buzz too, and thought it just as ridiculous as I did. He went on to say there was no way such a thing would happen. Good to hear. And it’s what I would expect to hear — there’s no way the John McCain I’ve described and praised in The State and in this forum could make such a mistake. But this is a matter of such import that I don’t believe in leaving anything to chance.

On the offhand slight risk that something like this could happen, let me offer just a few of the reasons why it shouldn’t. I’m not offering these in any order, so take them any way you like. Nor is this list all-inclusive. I’m just trying to get some of these things on the record:

  • Before putting Sanford on a long list, much less a short one, McCain should ask some of the true-blue conservative Republicans who helped him win the S.C. primary what they think. Start with House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Attorney General Henry McMaster. And demand that they be absolutely, brutally honest. Tell them not to let any misplaced notions about Reagan’s "11th commandment" get in the way. I haven’t asked either of them about this, but I suspect that the honest assessment of either of those leaders would lead to the same conclusion: Don’t even think about it.
  • It occurs to me that the first person Sen. McCain would ask would be Lindsey Graham. And in most things, that would be a wise call. But I submit that as smart as Lindsey Graham is, he has not been here in the trenches, watching with frustration as Mark Sanford has frittered away the very real chance he had of making a positive difference as governor. Don’t get me wrong — I think Sen. Graham’s honest assessment would ALSO be that he should steer clear of Sanford. I’m just saying that those who’ve had front-row seats right here in SC since 2002 have much more relevant, up-to-date information.
  • Some would superficially say Sanford would be a good match for McCain — aren’t they both "limited government" conservatives? But here’s the glaring difference: John McCain has devoted his life to public service, and believes in going to great lengths to make sure government performs its vital role in society as efficiently as possible. Mark Sanford is not a good-government guy (as we thought he was when we endorsed him in 2002). He is an anti-government guy. He exudes contempt for the public sector and all who devote themselves to it. This is something that it takes time with Sanford to understand. I didn’t realize it myself until he’d been in office several months. When it finally hit me, I confronted him about, saying essentially: You ran as a "conservative," but you’re not that at all. You’re a pure libertarian, with all that entails. He did not disagree. This may sound like I’m awfully slow on the uptake, and maybe I am. But it’s easy to be color-blind in this range. Modern conservatism tends to have its strongly libertarian components, so it’s easy to miss when a candidate or officeholder crosses the line into radical libertarianism, to the expense of commonsense conservatism. At least I began to realize it in his first year in office, and didn’t have to wait until he vetoed the entire state budget in 2006.
  • Let’s elaborate on that veto for a moment. It was a watershed event. If you had doubted where Sanford was coming from before, you would have no excuse for doing so afterward. I urge you to go back and read my column on the subject. In that veto, Mr. Sanford demonstrated more clearly than ever that being a hero to the Club for Growth is far, far more important to him than the business of actually governing South Carolina. If his veto had been upheld, there would have been no government in South Carolina — no highway patrol, no prison guards, no anything. Of course, Mr. Sanford will say that he knew the Legislature would override him. What that says is that he relied upon the Legislature to be responsible, using that confidence as license to make a supremely irresponsible, completely ideological gesture. In that moment, he threw away what little credibility he had earned with his obsessively detailed budgets, which we had praised for doing what the Legislature should do: Set priorities, holding some government functions as higher than others. All that was thrown away with a stroke of the pen, which told us all that was just so much abstract posturing. But the governor was just expressing his disillusionment with the process, you say? Well in that case, why not resign from office? That would make the point in a more dramatic, and more effective, way, without abdicating stewardship of the state.
  • But he wouldn’t do that — resign, that is — because that would mean he was no longer positioned to be picked as someone’s veep. And Mark Sanford’s tenure as governor all points to that being his motive. It makes sense of all that doesn’t add up otherwise. Take his supercilious manner toward the Legislature… Taking those two pigs into the lobby makes a great anecdote if your plan is to develop a national reputation as an anti-pork crusader. And if you did it after all other ways of communicating were exhausted, it might even have some validity. But ask the conservative Republican lawmakers who run General Assembly whether Mark Sanford has done the due diligence in trying to work for them to the betterment of South Carolina, and rest assured: The majority would say the stiff-arming contempt that was the central feature of the piglet publicity stunt reflects the governor’s default mode of dealing with lawmakers of his own party.
  • That contempt toward his own fellow Republicans should not be seen, in UnParty terms, as a potential virtue. Yes, it has tickled me at times to see how Mark Sanford sneers at party hoopla, despising parties as I do. But there is no upside to set alongside this contempt — no record of reaching out to, and working with, Democrats or independents, either. Sanford’s independence from his party is not that of the stalwart iconoclast, but of the radical individual who needs no one, and acts accordingly. The political career of Mark Sanford has been all about Mark Sanford. This is not that he is an egomaniac; it is that this is his philosophy. He thinks everyone should be equally focused on self, and private concerns.
  • An illustration of that point: Back during the 2002 campaign, I understood Mr. Sanford’s oft-stated wish to make South Carolina a better, more welcoming place for his sons to grow up in as being standard politicanspeak for, "I want to make South Carolina a better place for ALL children to grow up in." But no. If you look at his policy positions, he really meant HIS sons. And he wanted to advance policies that encouraged everyone to think first of advantages to them and their own, rather than to South Carolina as a whole. An illustration of THAT…
  • … Take his position with regard to education. First, he has no interest in PUBLIC education whatsoever. One of his two great policy priorities (the other is reducing the income tax, to which I will return) is to divert state funds to pay people to take their kids out of public schools, thereby reducing public support for the schools, which leads to less funding, which leads to the reduction of the one biggest item in the state budget. His ideological defenders would say, "No, it’s not about STATE funds; it’s about letting taxpayers keep their OWN money." But that speaks to my point. The governor and his ideological ilk look at public policy as CONSUMERS, not as CITIZENS. A consumer holds to the ridiculous notion that the taxes a parent pays toward supporting public schools are a sort of user fee; therefore if the parent sends HIS kids to private school or homeschools, he shouldn’t have to pay the taxes. But folks, public schools don’t exist merely as a service to the kids who attend them at a given moment, or to their families. If they did, we wouldn’t HAVE public schools, since only about a quarter of taxpayers have kids in the schools at any given time. We have public schools because universal education is a crucial goal of the society as a whole. We have public schools in order to create an educated society, so we have people with skills to fill the overwhelming majority of jobs in the state. We have the schools so that kids have a chance of becoming informed, constructive citizens, voters and taxpayers, rather than rotting away on street corners or in prison. On the most basic level, we have them so that all of us — from toddlers to retirees — can live in safe, prosperous communities, rather than in a Somalia-like environment of despair. And it is one of those few things that the market would never, ever provide on its own, because only society as a whole — rather than private actors — can profit from providing universal education (as opposed to targeted service to segments of the market, which can be profitable to a provider.)
  • To repeat a point I made in my column Sunday, this same kind of Philosophy of the Self is what informs the governor’s other great policy priority: Cutting the state income tax. Our Legislature is full of conservatives who LOVE cutting taxes, but relatively few of them would cite the governor’s choice — the income tax — as their priority. For one thing, it’s not relatively high. But the governor chooses that one for reasons related to what someone at the state Chamber of Commerce once said to me about the S.C. Policy Council: It doesn’t speak for business, or anyone who is creating jobs or might create jobs and wealth for the community. It speaks for people who have put all that behind them, who have made their pile and just want to shelter it from taxes. So would the governor’s approach to tax policy. This is also his economic development policy, almost entirely. He simply does not believe in the government investing in anything like endowed chairs; he believes the way to stimulate the economy is to make this a more attractive place for those who place legal tax evasion first and foremost.
  • Nothing Mark Sanford has done in his life, in either the public or private sector (and he’s spent very little time in the latter, so no balance for the ticket there), demonstrates any qualification or aptitude to be serve as president, should it come to that.

Disregard all political considerations for a moment: For the reasons above, and many more, placing Mark Sanford a heartbeat away from the presidency would be a great disservice to the nation. But if you want to consider the politics:

  • If McCain can’t win South Carolina without Sanford on his ticket, he should quit now. While I believe Barack Obama would break the patter of recent decades to campaign here (after the turnout he inspired in the primary, he could hardly do less than to put in an appearance) and would have an outside chance, it would still be McCain’s to lose. And Hillary "Old School" Clinton wouldn’t even try here.
  • McCain should never make the mistake of thinking Mark Sanford is the kind of guy who would get him in good with the portion of the base that he needs to win over. Think about it: Who is it that GOP voters have been voting for as the McCain alternative? Mike Huckabee. Gov. Huckabee is, on many levels, the opposite of Mark Sanford. Consider this one aspect: Mark Sanford is the hero of the Club for Growth, for all of the reasons I cited above — they love a guy who prefers anti-government posturing to governing, and their membership tends to consist of kinds of people who are independently wealthy to the degree that they see themselves as not needing the rest of society, and wonder what value other see in any sort of government. Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee is anathema to the Club for Growth, and the feeling is mutual — he calls it the Club for Greed.
  • The rise of Gov. Huckabee to the point of becoming the ONLY Republican alternative to Sen. McCain reflects a yearning in the base for something Mark Sanford could not satisfy. Mike Huckabee is no country-club conservative, but — as he puts it himself — a Boys and Girls-Club conservative. He is someone who shares the appreciation that ordinary people have for society’s institutions and the important role that they play in our lives. He knows that regular folks rely on institutions — including government — to provide things that mere individualism cannot offer. This is why he was even willing to go along with a tax increase to make sure the state adequately provided the basic services citizens rely upon. As he also says, Mr. Huckabee reminds voters of the guy they work with. The Club for Growth is like Mitt Romney — it looks like the guy who wants to lay them off.
  • What’s the one issue that has been most damaging to McCain this year? It’s illegal immigration, and the huge resentment of it out in the base. Is Mark Sanford a likely spokesman for that resentment? Of course not. That’s not a Club for Growth, fat-cat type of issue by any stretch. Once again, Huckabee would be a far more likely asset in this regard. (But don’t think this is about pushing Huckabee — it’s just that he’s the guy most often mentioned, so he comes first to mind, and when he does, he stands head-and-shoulders above Sanford on point after point.)
  • McCain would have good reason to want to counter an Obama candidacy with someone younger and more representative of "change." But Mark Sanford is one of the few people he might choose who actually have less in the way of accomplishments in public office than Sen. Obama. And remember that there is an inspirational, populist element in the appeal of Obama (and of Huckabee as well). Sanford would not bring that. As lacking in success as his tenure as governor has been, it looks better than his six years in Congress. All he accomplished there was making headlines for sleeping on his futon — a fact that perfectly encapsulates his career (plenty penny-pinching publicity stunts, few actual accomplishments).
  • Remember, we’re not talking about a guy who achieved a lot in the private sector, either. He managed to make a nice little pile without having a big impact on the business world, and then he essentially retired. Sanford is no Mitt Romney. Sanford has spent most of his last two decades in public office; if he hasn’t accomplished anything in public office, what has he accomplished? The answer: not much.
  • An argument could be made that a governor would help balance the ticket. And for a longtime senator, that’s true. But why this governor? Why a governor who is essentially an anti-governor? Why not someone like the governor of Florida, who not only could help deliver a critical swing state (remember the election of 2000), but who actually supported the McCain campaign when it counted.
  • That brings me to my last point for the moment (I know I’m leaving things out, but at some point I’ve got to go home for the day). In classic Mark Sanford style, our governor sat out the recent primary. At a time when both U.S. senators and other top Republicans laid their reputations on the line stating preferences at a critical moment in our state’s and nation’s history, at a time when most Republicans in the state were working as hard as they could for the candidate of their choice, Mark Sanford kept his theoretical options open by staying out of it. His apathy was palpable. There was nothing in it for Mark Sanford, so why make the gesture. Far better to choose someone who endorsed ANOTHER candidate (that could at least add balance) than someone who did not care whom was nominated.

I’m sure that the above rambling list will add to further discussion, and I will have additional points to make. For now I will close with the thought that there is a galaxy of reasons why Mark Sanford would be an awful choice for veep, and no good reasons to the contrary. Y’all take it from there.

McCain-Obama, and other match-ups

As I’ve expressed a number of times in the last few days — although it occurs to me it’s been on video or live TV mostly, and it’s past time I say it in writing if I haven’t already — my fondest wish for the fall is that John McCain will face Barack Obama. It would be a "no-lose proposition for the nation."

In fact, it would be the best choice of my adult lifetime. Yeah, I liked both Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford pretty much. And I had nothing particular against George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in 92. But this would be the first time I was ever positively enthusiastic about either eventuality. As I’ve spoken about it in recent days, I’ve had to stop myself several times from referring to it as a "ticket," and remember to say "on the same BALLOT" instead.

As to which I’d prefer — well, I don’t know which I’d prefer. If I’m to be consistent with my constant thought of the past eight years, McCain is the man. Going into last week, I was pretty sure I still preferred him, Obama (AND Clinton) being so much less experienced. There is also his position on the war, which almost exactly matches my own.

But the excitement of the last few days has made me wonder about that. And if Obama wins the nomination — with the Super Tuesday odds still against him at this point — I’ll be even more pumped about his ability to lead us into a new kind of politics.

None of that will diminish my deep respect for McCain. But once my dream is realized — if both are nominees — I’ll be able to compare them more objectively than I can now. Now, I’m just rooting for both of them.

But if only ONE of them is nominated — say, we end up with Obama vs. Romney, or McCain vs. Clinton — that makes my own, personal preference for endorsement the easiest I’ve ever experienced. And I think it would be just as easy for the nation, because the two I prefer are the ONLY ones with appeal among independents and crossover voters.

Then, of course, if NEITHER is nominated… well, that would be what we’re used to, wouldn’t it: A bitter choice between bad and worse. Surely this country can do better than that, for once.

After what we’ve seen happen in South Carolina, my hope is higher than ever for a far better choice for the nation than we have seen in many decades.

Come on, Fred — put your ol’ friend John over the top

So is it OK now to talk about how it would be the most logical, natural thing in the world for Fred Thompson to just go ahead and endorse John McCain, overtly and openly?

When I suggested he do so a couple of weeks ago, his supporters — apparently still believing that he was actually trying to get elected president — came from across the country and danced on my head, virtually speaking.

Then, when I pointed out that my fellow Memphis State grad was sorta already supporting McCain, by beating up pore ol’ Mike Huckabee in the MB debate, I got a friendlier reception. Note that, sometime afterward, George Will is making note of what I pointed to back when:

    Thompson, having left the race, could continue to support John McCain. In New Hampshire, Thompson attacked McCain’s principal problem there, Mitt Romney. In South Carolina, Thompson’s attack on Huckabee as a “liberal” might have provided McCain’s margin of victory.

Maybe it helped McCain more to continue to be a putative candidate and pound Huck in the debate. But now that, as Mr. Will notes, Mr. Huckabee’s moment is quite likely over, Fred could do John a lot more good by coming out and endorsing him in such a way that folks actually understand what’s going on. That’s on account of the wicked way that Florida runs its primary, which is that they don’t let folks like me vote. There, you have to swear party loyalty, so McCain can’t count on the very independent and crossover support that (in case Republican party types still haven’t figured it out) is the very reason why he is the GOP candidate most likely to actually win the whole thing in November.

Since Fred was portraying himself as the real conservative (as opposed to all those other real conservatives out there, who tend to be much shorter), and he had a modest-sized chunk of folks believing he actually was the (taller) embodiment of Ronald Reagan, his support could help McCain repeat his SC success in Florida.

All this assumes that Fred actually does want to have an impact on election outcomes — a positive impact, that is.

The ‘mystery’ of why the press likes McCain

Drudge today links to yet another clueless attempt to explain "The media’s love affair with McCain." An excerpt:

    One of the curiosities of American politics is the media’s ongoing infatuation with John McCain. A bit of this is based on things such as McCain’s opposition to torture (unfortunately, we can no longer treat opposing torture like opposing child molestation, i.e., something one assumes is standard equipment in a presidential candidate rather than a luxury upgrade). Yet most of the journalistic love affair with the Republican senator from Arizona is based on other factors.
    Consider this typical endorsement from the Orlando Sentinel: While McCain "has stuck to his principles at the risk of sinking his campaign," Mitt Romney "has abandoned positions that would have alienated his party’s conservative base." (Indeed, I checked a computer database and discovered that, in the national media, Romney is at least six times more likely to be described as a flip-flopper than McCain.)…

The author, who is a law professor (thin credentials for expressing the motives of the press), goes on to maintain that nothing could be further from the truth, that McCain’s a big flip-flopper from way back, including such arguments as saying that "McCain has done a 180-degree turn" on abortion, then going on to describe a turn that, even if you accept the characterization provided, certainly doesn’t add up to 180 degrees. (Apparently, law professors are expert in the deepest motivations of journalists, but not too swift on mathematical analogy.)

Anyway, I’ll tell you why news types tend to like McCain (which is not exactly the same as why editorial types like him, but most of us were once news types, too): Access. Ever since 1968, the press has grown used to political campaigns following the Nixon model of limiting access to the candidate, and carefully managing what he says, or at least what the press hears him say.

McCain throws that approach into the rubbish bin where it belongs. He will go to the back of the bus and make himself totally available to the ink-stained wretches who loiter there. And he’ll address anything you want him to, answering questions even to the extent of being available more than we need him to be.

News types love that. And editorial types, most of whom started out as news types, retain a soft spot for that kind of openness. It’s an element in why we like McCain, just as transparency is a factor in why we like Obama. There are other reasons, and we express them. But that straightforward approach is a factor.

The ‘smart money,’ down the drain

Going by the conventional wisdom, the "smart money" in South Carolina — millions of it — was on Mitt Romney. That was, after all, the horse that Warren Tompkins picked. As brother blogger Adam Fogle writes:

    It used to be that presidential campaign bragging rights in South Carolina went to one man: J. Warren Tompkins. Over the years, Tompkins had gained the reputation for being able to “pick a winner” with potential presidential campaigns. The powerhouse consultant appeared to confirm that status when he brokered the upset win of now-president George W. Bush in the 2000 Palmetto State GOP primary.

    But after spending over $5 million in the last 12 months across South Carolina, the Tompkins-directed campaign of Mitt Romney finished a dreadful fourth place in Saturday’s primary. And according to The National Journal, the days of Tompkins’ ability to saddle up with a winner ended in 2000 when that year’s runners-up patiently crafted what would become a successful eight-year campaign to assail the top spot and deliver John McCain the win he had been denied.

Adam’s link is to a magazine article about how McCain fought his way back to victory over the past eight years.

Then, consider that Sen. Jim DeMint — who jumped on the popular side of the immigration bill, putting himself at odds with both his fellow senator from South Carolina and Sen. McCain — backed Romney as well. And even after South Carolina rejected that choice, he’s still on the Romney wagon:

Greenville, SC – Tonight, Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) congratulated the winners of the South Carolina Republican primary.  He also pointed out that in the last five days Mitt Romney has won landslide victories in the Republican primary in the State of Michigan and the Caucuses in the State of Nevada and now has more delegates than any other Republican candidate.
    “Tonight I congratulate Senator McCain and Governor Huckabee for a spirited campaign here in South Carolina.  They worked hard and deserve credit for doing so well here.  South Carolina voters should also be congratulated for braving bad weather conditions and voting in spite of the elements.   
    “Given today’s results, I am more confident than ever that Mitt Romney will be our next President.  After Governor Romney’s lopsided wins in both Michigan and Nevada this week, it is clear he has real momentum heading into Florida and Super Tuesday. …

In other words, he was right, and the S.C. voters Saturday were wrong. Not usually the sort of position he takes.

Winner of Democratic debate: John McCain

You know, I was happy that the guy we endorsed in the Republican primary won in SC, but I sort of thought he had several more tough contests to go through before he had the GOP nomination in the bag.

Not according to the Democratic contenders tonight in Myrtle Beach: It’s John McCain this, John McCain that. Edwards says you’d best pick me ’cause I can take John McCain on in rural areas. Hillary says I’m the only one strong enough on defense to go against John McCain.

Has anybody told Huckabee and the rest about this? They might as well surrender at this rate….


The folks who won it for McCain

This afternoon, after I did my Alhurra gig with Andre, I dropped by the McCain HQ on my way over to visit my new grandbabies, to see what was happening. There was considerable worrying going on among some of the staff honchos, what with the mess in Horry County.

Of course, at that time they didn’t know that Greenville County would go for McCain. The conventionalMccainhq_2
wisdom was expressed to my Friday by McCainiac John Courson, when I asked him what impact he thought the predicted bad weather would have on today’s results. He said, not entirely jokingly, that the best
weather for McCain would be snow in the Upstate and sunshine on the coast. (Of course, we ended up with a mess across the state.)

But the folks doing the actual work of identifying and turning out the vote for McCain kept their heads down and kept at it, as shown in my double-naught spy camera photo. These folks did the job in the end.

McCain, when he came in to speak to our editorial board in August, said that’s how George W. Bush beat him in SC in 2000. Dismissing the smear campaign, and sounding like a good-sport losing coach, he said the other team just had the better organization, and more money.

This time, McCain had that advantage. At least, he had the advantage in organization. As for money — well, Mitt Romney can tell you that’s not everything.

Back in the dark days, when I wrote about McCain going to the mattresses, this HQ was a very lonely place. Not today, and that had a lot to do with making the difference.

AP calls it: McCain wins


The Associated Press says McCain has won it:

Date: 01/19/2008 09:18 PM


BULLETIN (AP) — John McCain, GOP, nominated President, South Carolina.

Very, very good news, considering that Huckabee had the Mo coming into today.

It’s been a long, long time coming, but South Carolina appears to have chosen the best of all possible Republicans for the nation.

If this is right, this is behind us with a most satisfactory conclusion. On to the Democrats. We’ll be endorsing in that race by midweek. Barack Obama is coming in to talk with us Monday morning.

Why Andre Bauer likes Huckabee

This afternoon, Andre Bauer and I were in a tent on the State House lawn, informing the Mideast.

Alhurra TV, which is a government-funded agency that broadcasts in Arabic to the region — it’s the Mideast version of Voice of America — asked me to do a live deal from their setup at the State House. It was my first direct experience with actual, sure-enough propaganda, and I liked it fine.

It was an unusual gig. Our host, Ephraim (sp?), was sitting to my right asking questions in Arabic. This is going to shock you, but Andre (who was sitting on my left) and I don’t actually understand or speak Arabic. There was a guy in some distant place speaking through a static-y connection into my left ear with a translation, of which I could only make out every other word during the first half of the show. We were getting a remote feed from Las Vegas, and Van Hipp spoke into our ears from Washington.

Andre, who had been out jogging with Mike Huckabee earlier in the day (it was his first jog since his plane crash), talked about why he had endorsed the former Arkansas governor on Thursday.

What’s interesting about his explanation of his decision (the English version, of course). He said he liked his ability to work with a Democratic legislature as governor, and the fact that he was unapologetic about having raised taxes to improve roads and schools. In other words, he was impressed by Huckabee’s understanding that a governor has an obligation to govern. (He specifically said that Huckabee shared his concern for aging issues.)

That’s just what I liked about Huckabee, and a significant reason why we said in our endorsement of John McCain last week that Huckabee would have been our second choice — although a distant second.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way he ran the last few days, which I have found very disturbing. More about that shortly, if I’m able to get to it. I’m typing this from the set at S.C. ETV,  where we’re on live.

(Final note: I just realized, watching Mike Campbell doing a live feed on the monitor, that this time, he and Andre were on the same side. OK, it’s not the biggest irony in the history of the world, but I thought I’d mention it.)

Fred’s lost

About an hour ago, my wife was approaching the I-26 overpass on Sunset in West Columbia. She saw Fred Thompson’s bus pull off the interstate, laboriously turn around on that huge, complicated overpass, and get back on the interstate to go back in the direction it had come from.

And those things aren’t nearly as easy to turn around as a pick-’em-up truck.

My crystal ball is murky


s I’m always saying, in the editorial biz, we’re about who should win elections, not who will win. Endorsements aren’t predictions, yadda-yadda.

Well, we did our endorsement. It’s done, and I’m quite satisfied with it.

Who’s going to win is a separate question, and I’ve been known to indulge in the most indiscreet indulgence of making predictions since I took up the unwholesome habit of blogging.

But I just don’t know what to tell you. You know and I know who I hope will win, because I’ve been very clear about it. And there’s reason to be hopeful. Zogby shows McCain with a decent lead:

Arizona Sen. John McCain is holding on to his lead in South Carolina as the Republican primary election there approaches, a new Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby three-day telephone tracking poll shows. But the survey also shows former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are closing in on him ahead of Saturday’s vote.

In the latest telephone tracking survey, McCain is holding steady at 29%, while Huckabee wins 22% support for the second day in a row.

Then there’s this, but it’s two days old, and I don’t know anything about that outfit’s record for accuracy.

And remember, "accuracy" is a relative thing. The best poll in the world captures a moment in time, and that moment often doesn’t match the one in which people vote. Campaigns move in four dimensions.

Also, Zogby has been known to be very wrong, very recently. And then there’s the poll that we published in this newspaper this very day, showing a McCain-Huckabee statistical dead heat.

Even with John Zogby, there’s reason for a McCainiac to be concerned. To subscribers to his service (one of whom shared this with me), he says:

There is movement afoot in the Palmetto State. The precise three-day rolling average is McCain 28.6%, Huckabee 22.3%, Romney 15.4%, and Thompson 13.2%. The very first day of polling McCain led by double digits. In the single day of polling on Thursday alone, Romney hit 19%, while McCains lead over Huckabee stood at only 3.2%. If Romney continues to gain after Michigan it will hurt McCain.

And then consider the bad weather forecast, and consider:

Likely voters of different ages had different tastes, the survey shows. Romney led among voters aged 18-29, with 33%. Huckabee was favored by those aged 30 to 49, with 30% of their support. Voters aged 50 to 64 liked McCain best, giving him 33% of their support. McCain also dominated among those over 65, with 42% support. Romney was a distant second among seniors, with 19% support.

So it can go either way. We wait to see which face emerges from the crowd.


The Convenient Nativist

Odd, isn’t it, that this anti-immigrant bit of propaganda — which purports to be about Sen. Lindsey Graham — should emerge at this particular moment:

This offensive nativist screed makes no policy proposal. The thrust here is about people speaking Spanish — as opposed to fine, decent folks with "South Carolina values." Appalling.

And as we all know, there’s a lot more at stake with an emotional play like this than a quixotic slap at a secure incumbent senator.

Huckabee on the Confederate flag

No time to get into this right now — I’m way behind on my Sunday column — but just to let you know, Mike Huckabee is now apparently bringing up the Confederate flag at campaign events, and here’s what he’s saying:

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) – Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told South Carolina voters Thursday that the government had no business making decisions over the Confederate flag.
    "You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag," Huckabee said at a Myrtle Beach campaign event. "In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell them what to do with the pole, that’s what we’d do."
    Later, in Florence, he repeated the remarks. "I know what would happen if somebody comes to my state in Arkansas and tells us what to do, it doesn’t matter what it is, tell us how to run our schools, tell us how to raise our kids, tell us what to do with our flag — you want to come tell us what to do with the flag, we’d tell them what to do with the pole."

Evidently, I talk with my hands

Just finished a taped interview with Michele Norris of "All Things Considered." Listen for it this afternoon — maybe. At last word Michele says today’s broadcast isn’t set yet. I’m betting I don’t make it if they have anything else that’s decent at all. I’m not exactly at the top of my game today.

To give you a taste of it, here is a clip that undoubtedly represents the worst video I have ever shot. I learned two things this morning:

  1. It’s very easy to forget you’re holding a camera, and that it’s turned on, when you are the interviewee rather than the interviewer.
  2. Obviously, I talk with my hands.

Anyway, that was my third radio thing this morning — I did Andy Gobeil’s show over at ETV studios and a phone thing with a station out of Little Rock, Ark. The Arkansas station wanted to hear about Mike Huckabee. I told them they should be telling me.

I’m back at my normal job now, for the rest of the day. I’ll blog as I can. Getting a little tired, though. I’ve got a lousy cold. Here we are with this historic opportunity — with South Carolina in position to make a major difference in both parties’ nominations — and today I’m sort of wishing this were the 27th.

Oh, one last thing — Michele mentioned reading my blog when she first contacted me. So did her sound woman, Andrea Hsu, when I met her today. Once again, I’m struck by the fact that, in spite of the much-lower readership numbers (a fraction of a fraction), the blog is cited more and more by people who contact me. So maybe this thing does have an impact, and isn’t just a useless symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.