Tag Archives: South Carolina

I’ve been on the road in my home state of South Carolina for the last two days crisscrossing the state, talking to voters, elected officials, politicos, and reporters. I’ve seen over twenty polls and heard every candidate live.

Many people ask me what I think. At the risk of looking foolish on Sunday morning, here is my unvarnished rambling opinion.

Trump has not had the best week and the indicators are he is sliding back to the field. The question is, how much? Trump had a lot of fur he could shed and still stay plenty warm. SC is a good fit for Trump’s message of stopping the rapid pace of economic and cultural globalism, manifest in issues like trade, immigration and gun control. His dust-up with the Pope is a net neutral to positive for him in South Carolina. I don’t think he breaks 40, and the Trump people are wisely trying to manage expectations. But at this point, a Trump loss would be a monumental upset.

Cruz is steady like a rock in South Carolina. It does not appear that he has done anything to grow his vote this week, but Cruz’s followers are loyal and intense. He has the backing of many of the states genuine evangelicals and much of the tea party factions as well. Cruz will get every vote he polls because he has one of the finest turnout operation in politics.

Rubio is moving up, separating from Bush and Kasich. The question everyone following the race in South Carolina asks is, is it enough to catch Cruz? I don’t know. His campaign is the one that does everything – candidate presentation, ads, events, turnout – very good if not great, a first rate political operation across the board. He’s had a good week of press led by the endorsement of enormously popular SC Governor Nikki Haley and there is a lot of energy at his events.

Jeb Bush’s campaign in South Carolina has the air of a farewell party. I have talked to many former Bush loyalists who worked hard for Bush 41 and 43 who are either uncommitted or are for Rubio or Kasich. They all say roughly the same thing – “it breaks my heart because I love the Bushes, but it just isn’t happening.” It is a great political irony – South Carolina saved two Bushes and springboarded them to the White House, but it might be Jeb Bush’s Waterloo in 2016.

John Kasich is well liked in South Carolina. Kasich intertwines his profound knowledge of policy with a personal touch better than anyone on the campaign trail. His problem is he has not been here in South Carolina, has not invested his time in the state and its too late to catch up. He’ll finish respectably, but there will be no New Hampshire surprise.

Ben Carson is not only as fine a man as you will encounter in American politics, he is as fine a man as you will encounter in any walk of life. I had the privilege today to spend a half hour backstage with Dr. Carson before he addressed a terrific crowd of around 750 or so in my hometown of Florence, SC. I listened, shared, laughed and prayed with him. Ben Carson may not become the president but every American can learn something from his quiet strength, healing and hope for the future.

So, at risk of being foolish:

1. Trump
2. Cruz
3. Rubio
4. Bush
5. Kasich
6. Carson

I think there will be:

5-10 points of separation between 1st & 2nd.
0-5 points of separation between 2nd & 3rd.
10 points or so separation between 3rd & 4th.
4th, 5th & 6th all feel like they will get around 8-12% of the vote, jumbled up, the order could vary. I would not be at all surprised to see Ben Carson finish 4th, for instance.

I also think that I’m smart enough to know that this race is extremely fluid, I think moreso than ever in South Carolina, and anything could happen (how is that for hedging).

Most of all I think people should go vote for the candidate of their choice! It’s the cornerstone of our democracy, the power to choose. If we don’t use it, we might lose it.

Three States or Four Screens? Welcome to the New Presidential Primary.

Carly in IAOnce upon a time, running for president was arguably confined to a Three State exercise. You gathered endorsements, knocked on doors, stood on flatbeds and made speeches in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Not anymore.

Today running for president requires a Four Screen Strategy. TV, Desktop, Tablet and Mobile.

The endorsement of a local figure is less powerful than that of a popular blogger who might live thousands of miles away. Candidates knock on many more email inboxes than doors for a fraction of the cost.

And voters don’t have to brave the cold or the rain to see a full-length speech from a political candidate. We can watch live on CNN, Fox News Channel or MSNBC from the warm cocoons of our living rooms. Missed the moment? No worries. you are a YouTube click away from all the speeches you want, such as this glorious rant from Donald Trump last night.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 1.15.50 PMThe speech was made in Fort Dodge, Iowa, but it could have been made in Fort Worth, Texas or Fort Deposit, Alabama and had the same impact in our Three States. Thanks to our Four Screens, the latest Trump De Force will reverberate far beyond 1500 Iowa eyewitnesses. Voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina and other early primary states awoke this morning to Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and Email Inboxes with All Caps messages from friends and influencers across the country. “OMG you have to watch,” “LOL at Trump” and “Trump WTF” was splashed across our screens with links to video of the speech and stories, tweets and commentary framing it.

A recent Pew Research study confirms the Four Screen phenomenon. Attending campaign events, once a staple of American politics, is becoming less relevant. Voters were more than twice as likely to report they followed a candidate on social media than to say they’d attended a campaign event – young voters five times more likely.

Voters also report declines in campaign contacts from printed mail, home visits, prerecorded and live calls, with an increase in only one area – E-Mail. And while slightly fewer voters reported seeing a TV ad, the TV Screen is still king, far outpacing other forms of direct contact in reaching voters.

More and more voters are following candidates on social media for more than interesting and relevant content. Voters increasingly say “it helps me find out about political news before other people do.” This means voters aren’t just following the campaigns and forming an opinion. They are becoming “micro opinion leaders,” socializing shareable content such as videos, polls, stories, lists and analysis from sites like Politico, RealClearPolitics and Independent Journal Review so they can advocate and influence the views and votes of others.

This is why smart campaigns are investing time and dollars in creating their own shareable digital content and mastering the technology necessary deliver it to Four Screen primary voters. As Nicholas Carr noted in a recent Politico Magazine story:

Ted Cruz live-streams his appearances on Periscope. Marco Rubio broadcasts “Snapchat Stories” at stops along the trail. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush spar over student debt on Twitter. Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham produce goofy YouTube videos. Even grumpy old Bernie Sanders has attracted nearly two million likers on Facebook, leading the New York Times to dub him “a king of social media.”

The job of the modern campaign is not only to deliver message to audience. It is to empower the audience to become an army of evangelists for your candidate, equipping them with the sharpest implements of modern day digital and social advocacy to help them shape and win the online conversation.

We still count votes in those three states, and their scoreboards have power to change momentum and drive the broader race. But the campaigns with the most powerful Four Screen Strategies are the ones lighting those scoreboards up with votes.

P.S. – As a Friday bonus, here is a really great cover of Ramblin’ Man by the Miller Brothers.  Thanks to Larry Williams at TigerIllustrated.com for sharing it this morning.

Back to the Political Future

As we all breathlessly proclaim the Year of the Political Outsider – and hey, I’ve rambled about it myself – sometimes it’s good to take a look back and see if what we think is unique is really just usual.

Back-2-future-delorean30 years ago the #1 movie in America was Back to the Future. That’s as good a reason as we need to hop in the Delorean, fire up the flux capacitor, set the red numbers to January 24, 2000, and head to Des Moines.

If my calculations are correct, at 88 mph we’ll see that the “Year of the Outsider” – at least in Iowa – is just this year’s New Old Thing.

When we get to snowy Iowa 16 years ago we find that three political “outsiders,” none of whom had held political office before, took 53% of the vote in the 2000 Iowa Caucuses – billionaire publisher Steve Forbes, conservative political activist Alan Keyes and former Family Research Council president Gary Bauer.

Sound familiar? That’s because 52% of the vote – almost the exact same number – belongs today to Billionaire real estate magnate Donald Trump, Retired Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

Now set those red numbers to January 3, 2008 and hit the pedal again. We’ll arrive in time to find anti-establishment Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee winning Iowa with 34%, and anti-establishment libertarian Congressman Ron Paul picking up another 10%. That’s 44% going to the anti-establishment.

Zoom to January 3, 2012, and get there in time to see the anti-establishment “outsider” trio of former Senator Rick Santorum, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Congressman Paul take 51% of the vote.

Sanders BrownNow, Back to the Future, hopefully without upsetting the political space-time continuum and accidentally ending up with Bernie “Doc” Sanders as president. What did we learn from the trip?


Let’s take a look:

  1. What’s past in politics is often prelude. Typically, somewhere between 45-55% of the Iowa GOP caucus vote is going to outsider, non/anti-establishment candidates in any given year since Bill Clinton has been president. This year’s “phenomenon” is more regular than rare.
  2. It depends on the meaning of the word “outsider”. The real division is not so much outsider vs. insider, but its establishment vs. anti-establishment. Former pols like Huckabee, Santorum or even current pols like Ron Paul who are seen as anti-Washington and against the status quo run well in Iowa and accumulate caucus vote like winter snowfall.
  3. Flag_of_South_Carolina.svgNH FlagIowa is a broken weathervane. In the era of the Reagan Revolution and beyond, only two candidates have won a contested GOP caucus in Iowa and gone on to be the nominee. And one of the winners who did, Bob Dole in 1996, was from nearby Kansas. Four times the Iowa winner eventually lost. If you want to know the prevailing GOP winds, look instead to New Hampshire and South Carolina. They’ve historically been much stronger indicators of who the nominee will be.
  4. Do Hawkeyes love Billionaire magnates? Billionaire Publishing magnate single issue candidate (Flat Tax) Steve Forbes pulled roughly the same percentage of Iowa vote that Billionaire Real Estate magnate single issue candidate (Immigration) Donald Trump is pulling today 31/29. Forbes’ campaign failed to grow, and the primary argument against Trump today is that his campaign has reached its ceiling too.

MARTY IN CARIf you’re a card carrying member of the GOP establishment, these polls might have you as worried about the rhythmic ceremonial ritual of the Iowa Caucus as Marty McFly was terrified being in the car with Lorraine at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. Somebody, anybody on your team can’t open that car door soon enough and change the direction of the polling.

But as our quick trip tells us, relax. Worry not.

Someone will show up. Maybe not in Iowa, but they’ll get there.

Darth VulcanJeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Calvin Klein… someone will get a visit from Darth Vader of the Planet Vulcan, find courage and tell Donald “Biff” Trump to get his damn hands off the voters. And then the race will be on, bolt of lightning and 1.21 Gigawatts strong.

And we know they will come. We can guarantee it.

After all, we’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we?



The Face of the New South

NIkki HaleySouth Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is having quite a run of success.  She has recruited Mercedes Benz, Boeing and Volvo for economic development projects totaling thousands of jobs.  She’s been a great fiscal champion fighting for lower taxes and less spending.

new-york-times-logoThe spotlight is on her recently for her courageous call to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the SC State House grounds following the horrific murders at Mother Emmanuel Church in my home state of Charleston, SC.  I applaud her. It wasn’t easy, and I shared some thoughts earlier with The New York Times outstanding Jonathan Martin as to how difficult an issue this is for Republicans.

Republicans Tread Carefully in Criticism of Confederate Flag

conf flag sc domeThe flag is a pretty personal issue for me and in my family.  In 1998, I lost two elections on one night because of that banner.  First, a race I was managing for the US Senate for Bob Inglis, and second SC Governor David Beasley, my brother in law, lost the governorship after calling for the flag to come down off of the Capitol Dome.  There is a reason that both men have been awarded the JFK Profile in Courage Award.  So it’s a bit of satisfaction to see those electoral sacrifices (Inglis had also courageously called for the flag’s removal) were not made in vain.

Moving the flag was the right thing to do. The symbols of state should bring people together as opposed to tearing them apart.  And moving the flag was the conservative thing to do in my view.  A limited government should waste no resources debating, flying, lighting and displaying, protecting, or otherwise maintaining a symbol that offends roughly half of the state in such a visceral, personal way.  South Carolina’s precious fiscal, intellectual and emotional resources are better invested in creating jobs and improving schools.

PoliticoWhich made me all the more happy to talk about Governor Haley, the flag and the New South with Eliza Collins from Politico.

Nikki Haley Coming to DC Amid VP Buzz