Presidential primary season is upon us

The Rauch Report

By Bill Rauch

With candidates for the Presidency, including Hillary Rodham Clinton the Democratic Party’s dominate presidential primary figure, crisscrossing the state last week, it’s now clear the 2016 South Carolina “Gateway to the South” bellwether presidential primary season has begun.

Consistent with recent experiences, it appears the GOP race will be closely fought.

Carly Fiorino, left, and Rep. Shannon Erickson at the House Republican Caucus luncheon in Columbia last week. In her remarks Mrs. Fiorino said: “We must have the strongest military on the face of the earth, and everyone must know it.”
Carly Fiorino, left, and Rep. Shannon Erickson at the House Republican Caucus luncheon in Columbia last week. In her remarks Mrs. Fiorino said: “We must have the strongest military on the face of the earth, and everyone must know it.”

South Carolina’s “favorite son” Senior Senator Lindsey Graham declared his candidacy on Monday. According to recent polls the GOP field, which may number as many as 17 by the time the last contestant enters the race and before the first one withdraws, at the outset is led by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who are in what amounts to a statistical dead heat here. Statewide polls taken before his announcement show Senator Graham about five points behind them.

On the day of Senator Graham’s announcement, national polls showed the senator at just 1% among GOP voters whom pollsters identified as likely to vote, the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls indicates. That’s not as far back as it may sound. In the same national polls Bush, Walker and Florida Governor Marco Rubio were at just 14, 13, and 12 percents respectively. Walker leads Bush by about 10 points in Iowa (19-9) and Graham is virtually unknown there, the most recent polls also show.

Judging from the candidates’ early comments, it appears the American response to ISIS, the Islamic State fighters, will be a dominant topic in the GOP race. On that issue Graham and businesswoman Carly Fiorino, each coming out of the camp of 2008 GOP standard-bearer John McCain, appear to be the toughest hawks. Bush, as frontrunners do, equivocates in vague terms, hoping not to offend. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is more dovish than most Democrats, recently blamed the GOP’s hawks for the rise of ISIS, comments that were flatly rejected by Governors Walker and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. They say it is the White House’s ineptness that caused the vacuum into which ISIS moved. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee advocate increased air strikes and arming the Kurds. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Florida Governor Marco Rubio have made general statements about the necessity of the United States “projecting strength” etc.

Did I forget anyone?

No one has talked about the obvious yet: that the war against Islamic fundamentalism cannot be won and stay won by bullets and bombs alone. To accomplish this Washington will have to lift an old play out of President Ronald Reagan’s playbook and begin to project once again the American way of life as the “shining city upon the hill.” Those who become suicide bombers have lost hope for a better life in this world. The Free World’s best and probably only option, for finally ending this struggle is to show by example, and by careful communication, to those who are so desperate what we know: that democracy and freedom (including religious freedom) and capitalism offer them and their families the best hope for their seeing light where now they see only darkness.

In South Carolina most GOP elected officials and power brokers are still uncommitted in the Presidential race at this time. However two, while being careful not to say they are offering their endorsements, have expressed an early preference. They are State Senator Tom Davis and State Representative Shannon Erickson.

Davis, who was filibustering last week and couldn’t be reached for a comment, is “openly supporting” Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, according to a story that appeared last week in The Post and Courier. Davis and Paul are each often described as coming out of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. Paul, who recently revived the Senatorial filibuster as a legislative device, was at 9% nationally in Monday’s Real Clear Politics averages poll.

Rep. Erickson said last week in Columbia at a House Republican Caucus luncheon, “I don’t endorse. But I like Carly a lot.” Former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorino who lives now in Fairfax County, Virginia, got into the race about a month ago. Last week she was in Columbia and critical of Hillary Clinton on several issues including Mrs. Clinton’s missing emails, foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and her handling as Secretary of State of the Benghazi attack.

South Carolina’s GOP presidential primary election will be held February 20, and the Democrats’ presidential primary will follow a week later on February 27th, according to the parties.

The way the GOP primary schedule is shaping up, South Carolina will follow New Hampshire on February 9th by a comfortable 11 days during time which the various campaigns and their affiliated super PACs will spend millions on local TV time. The opening round, the Iowa Caucuses, are scheduled for eight days prior to that on February 1. These dates and their sequence are roughly consistent with those of recent presidential primary seasons.

Following South Carolina by three days will be the Nevada GOP primary on February 23 to be followed by the still-emerging “SEC Primary” that will include Georgia and Alabama, and perhaps Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee and more on March 1st. The new “SEC Primary” draws its name from the powerful southeastern football conference and is a clear effort by the state parties involved to increase their national influence by teaming up and going early, thus presumably throwing the SEC states’ combined strength – and maybe the all-important race momentum — to a candidate or candidates whose views are more aligned with those of voters south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

South Carolina’s voters — who do not register by party — may choose the primary in which they wish to vote. That means if Mrs. Clinton continues to face scant opposition from within her party’s ranks, it is likely there will be spirited crossover voting in the 2016 South Carolina GOP presidential primary.

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