February 20, 2016, 8 AM.
Columbia, South Carolina
I have a number of friends who are enrolled with the Republican Party. I enjoy their friendships. But never in my life have I spent so short of a time (3 days) with so many Republicans — probably 11-12,000. I have really found my political tour of South Carolina to be very educational and entertaining. I might not be saying that if my political affiliation was an “R.”
Following my attempt to find Ben Carson, and attending rallies for Marco Rubio and Donald Trump on Wednesday, I attended Jeb Bush and John Kasich events on Thursday. Yesterday, I went back for a second helping of Trump plus a visit with Ted Cruz. By coincidence of timing and location I was able to see the establishment candidates (Bush and Kasich) one day and the outside lane contenders (Trump and Cruz) the next day. Which is conveniently how the Republican Party is splitting this year.
The Bush rally was in Columbia. I registered for a ticket, but that was not an issue, since we (my daughter and I) got there a little early, and attendance was a little light — a small room with few chairs makes the standing overflow look like a big crowd — a time tested formula for a losing campaign.
Bush was joined by his wife and his brother (Marvin, not the other one), plus Senator Lindsay Graham. Graham is a lot less funny than he was when he was a presidential candidate himself.
I have been around enough campaigns to recognize one that is running out of their time. Bush knows his stuff, but the atmosphere in the room made me think that I have been to wakes that were more uplifting. The only question left is will the campaign fold before or after the Florida primary?
John Kasich’s rally was held in an outdoor pavilion in a very well-to-do retirement community. He was introduced by a former Vietnam prisoner of war who has worked for Kasich in Ohio. The crowd was, except for 3 or 4 protesters (planned parenthood issue), very friendly. Kasich presented a very friendly case for himself. The protesters did not bother him. He has low expectations in South Carolina, so perhaps the pressure is off for him here.
Kasich, unlike the others I saw this week, got past all the old talking points that he has repeated in the debates. He is willing to say some things that the base may not want to hear, which is why at the end of the day he will not be delivering an acceptance speech in Cleveland in July.
The Trump rally on Friday was in Myrtle Beach, a gaudy city along the ocean. He again attracted 4/5,000 people in a mammoth sports building that was strategically closed off in part. He was introduced by the Lt. Governor of South Carolina and assorted other folks. I have no way of knowing, but my sense is that those who speak before Trump at his rallies are likely, as they say in some infomercials, “compensated spokespersons.”
I usually walk with a cane, and standing in place for an extended period of time is not very comfortable. So I looked for seating when I walked in. Despite the fact that there were many folks also using canes, and lots of elderly who could use a seat, there were only 5 or 6 small bleachers. A security person gave me a scowl when I asked about chairs. My daughter eventually found one for me. I think that the lack of accommodations probably violated the law. There is an old Italian expression that the fish rots from the head down. Since Trump’s contempt for many people includes the disabled, then I guess I should not expect his campaign staff to have been accommodating.
There is no better way to describe Trump and the organization he is running than to say he is very scary. His plans to deal with the country’s problems, which vary from the absurd to the destructive, are a joke. His treatment of the public he would serve is generally insulting. At Friday’s event two protesters who merely held up a banner saying “veterans should not be props for hate” were thrown out. Another protester who Trump said was holding up a picture of a potato was outed by his supporters with the “Trump, Trump, Trump” chant and then removed from the room as Trump yelled “get him out of here.”
The Erie County Republican Party is evidently moving to endorse Trump. Be prepared to be embarrassed over and over and over by your candidate.
Ted Cruz was introduced at his Friday evening rally by a far right wing South Carolina Congressman (Jeff Duncan) and by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty. Robertson spent most of his time explaining that gay marriages result in high levels of STD. Cruz suggested that Robertson should be the United States UN ambassador. At least now I don’t need to ever tune in to see what that TV show is about.
After praising Duncan and Robertson, Cruz got into his new main theme for the election, to hold off on appointing a new Supreme Court Justice. He recites cases he argued before that court that were decided by 5 to 4 votes. He also took shots at Trump and discussed why he thinks he (Cruz) is best prepared to be commander-in-chief.
Cruz’s doctrinaire, my-way-or-the-highway approach and his contempt for those he disagrees with are as disturbing as Trump’s. His nomination would do wonders for the Democratic Party in November
Republicans hold their South Carolina primary today, February 20th. The Democrats have their Nevada caucus today and their South Carolina primary next Saturday, February 27th.
Trump will win the South Carolina contest, but by a smaller margin than the polls have predicted. I expect the margin over the second place finisher, Cruz, to be about 8-10 percent.
Rubio will follow Cruz for third place with about 16-18 percent. Kasich will be fourth with ten to twelve percent. Bush and Carson will follow with single-digit shares.
Or not. I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes out.