Category Archives: Parties

Has South Carolina become for Dems what it was for GOP?

The main thing about the SC primary, of course, is that the right candidate runs and wins it. Hint, hint...

The main thing about the SC primary, of course, is that the right candidate runs and wins it. Hint, hint…

I mean in terms of the presidential primary process.

Starting in 1988, and ending in 2012, SC was in many ways the contest Republicans had to win. It was key to both of the Bushes especially. SC Republicans went around saying things like “We choose presidents,” yadda yadda. They did this because they picked mainstream, establishment candidates with appeal beyond the base, and our early primary helped tip the selection process in their favor.

Then, in 2012, it all fell apart with the rejection of Mitt Romney in favor of the fire-breathing Newt Gingrich. And we know what happened in 2016 — yeah, SC Repubs picked the eventual winner, but the whole national electorate had to go stark, raving mad in order for that to happen. At the time of the SC primary, it looked like Palmetto State Republicans were chasing off in another crazy direction alone, as with Gingrich. If decisions were still made in smoke-filled rooms by a party elite, SC would have lost its early primary by now. (In saner times, SC Republicans would have salvaged the hopes of the hapless Jeb! They had never let a Bush down before.)

Meanwhile, over the last few elections, this red state has gotten more important to Democrats. I was impressed by how many Dems we saw trooping though our editorial boardroom in 2003-4 (my own favorite being, famously or infamously, Joe Lieberman). And while he didn’t get the nomination, the execrable John Edwards’ win here helped get him the second spot on the ticket.

SC was very helpful in helping Barack Obama get the momentum he needed to pull ahead in 2008. The SC Democratic primary wasn’t really a contest in 2016, with Hillary Clinton winning hands-down as expected.

But this year, you’d think the Democratic nomination was going to be awarded right here, on the spot, next Feb. 29. They’ve been trooping through here in battalions, for months. (You’ve seen me complain about that distraction, and media fascination with 2020 over 2018, back during the campaign last fall.)

This is an interesting phenomenon. There have always been some aspects of the Democratic contest in this blood-red state that caused folks to pay attention nationally. That was largely because there are essentially no black voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, so Dems who won in those places would be told, “Let’s just wait and see how you do in South Carolina.”

But this thing we’re seeing now exceeds what we’ve seen in the past. With the huge field, and particularly with some of the chief contestants in it being African-American, we are looming large.

I’ve had a lot of occasions to note this; we all have. What kicked this off today was Vanity Fair’s “The Hive” making this observation about Bernie Sanders:

None of Sanders’s opponents are scared by those numbers, however. Because what Sanders was less good at in 2016 was spending his large pile of money to win votes. Particularly the crucial Democratic primary votes of women and African-Americans. Especially in the key state of South Carolina. And three years after being crushed by 47 points there by Hillary Clinton, with an even more challenging field of primary rivals shaping up, Sanders is showing little sign that he’s going to get it right this time around. True, in January he spoke in South Carolina on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Sanders has also taken every opportunityto blast President Donald Trump as a racist. Yet Sanders remains remarkably awkward on the subject…

The piece ends with a lengthy quote from our own Bakari Sellers.

I don’t know why that particularly grabbed me. Something about Vanity Fair of all entities calling poor li’l ol’ us “the key state.” Anyway, you’ll be reading plenty more like that.

This is deeply ironic, of course — a state that hasn’t been in play in the general election being so important to Democrats. But it’s increasingly a thing, and it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out going forward.

In short, will this story have a happy ending (with Joe Biden deciding to run, winning in SC, and going on to win the White House), or not? That’s my perspective, anyway… :)

The stream of Dems who came through our editorial board room in 2004 was impressive. Since that was pre-blog, this is the only photo I have from that time. It was shot by a Dean fan when my assistant Sandy Brown and I were escorting the governor from the building after meeting with him...

The stream of Dems who came through our editorial board room in 2004 was impressive. Since that was pre-blog, this is the only photo I have from that time. It was shot by a Dean fan when my assistant Sandy Brown and I were escorting the governor from the building after meeting with him…

 

How about a graphic on who’s NOT running?

IMG_0013

It might be simpler.

Anyway, I thought y’all might be interested in seeing the interactive graphic The New York Times has published showing the Democrats, or sort-of Democrats, who are definitely or maybe or possibly running for president next year.

(And no, the image above is not interactive. It’s just a screenshot from my iPad, although it links to the real one. The interactive one is here.)

Apparently, there’s a heap of hubris out there. All sorts of folks think they’re qualified to be POTUS, many of them on the thinnest possible grounds.

Personally, I’ve decided we need a good rule of thumb for winnowing the field, and I have gone ahead and come up with one, The country can thank me later. Here it is: No one younger than I am should be allowed to be president. Sure, that young fella Obama did pretty well, but we just can’t take chances with our country. Too much is at stake.

So, let’s see… the following youngsters are disqualified among those who are running or are likely: Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Delaney, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar, Yang, Bullock, Landrieu, McAuliffe, Merkley, O’Rourke.

I’ll figure out how to disqualify Sanders and Warren later. Hey, I didn’t claim my system was perfect. It’s just a starting point. I’ll continue to work on it until achieves my desired purpose of eliminating everyone other than Joe Biden.

(And no, Trump’s being older than I am doesn’t qualify him, since mentally and emotionally he’s about 3 years old.)

Anyway, as Bryan likes to say, your mileage may vary. :)

IMG_0014

 

 

Rep. Hart underlines silliness of the ‘wall’ nonissue

Here’s a release with a silly headline about a silly bill mocking something equally, you know, silly:

unnamed (2)

I only have one beef with it: I had to show you the release as a picture, rather than copying and pasting text, because it wasn’t sent in a text form.

Which is inconvenient. And irritating. And perhaps silly as well…

As to the merits of the measure that the Democrats are filibustering — I have no idea. Don’t know why Republicans are for it; don’t know why Democrats are against it. Don’t much care. Here’s a Tweet about it; that’s all I’ve got:

George Will harshes Beto’s buzz

The skateboarding man-child.

The skateboarding man-child.

One of the more interesting things about this moment in our history is watching conservative pundits writing about Democrats who — they hope — would have the potential to beat Trump in 2020.

I’m not saying it’s remarkable that they want Trump gone. Any “conservative” who knows what the word means — and too few of those who use it constantly do — would want him out of office yesterday.

I mean it’s interesting because they bring attention to substantive potential candidates who actually might have a chance of winning a general election. Which these days is something of a novelty. Most of the writing about 2020 thus far has been about this week’s shiny new toy, rather than people someone other than a Democrat might vote for.

George Will has devoted several columns lately to elevating the profiles of people who he believes have what it takes. My mentioning Will will cause Doug and bud to bristle — a lot of what I write about does that. But as guys who appreciate numbers and hard facts more than my intuitive leaps, they should pay attention to Will. He’s just as avid a student of electoral stats as he is of the ones that apply to baseball.

His latest effort praises Sen. Amy Klobuchar. He breaks it down without sentimentality or wishful thinking:

Klobuchar is from a state contiguous with Iowa, whose caucuses might, or might not, be as big a deal in 2020 as they have been since Jimmy Carter’s 1976 success in them propelled him toward the presidency. (Early voting for California’s March 3 primary, in which probably 11 percent of delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be allocated, begins the day of Iowa’s caucuses, so some candidates might slight Iowa to court California.) Minnesota also borders Wisconsin, one of the three Rust Belt states (the others are Michigan and Pennsylvania) that Donald Trump took but that had voted Democratic in at least six consecutive presidential elections. She is from the Midwest, where Democrats need help in Michigan (Trump carried it by just 0.3 percent of the vote), Iowa (Trump by nine percentage points) and Ohio (Trump by nine points).

Minnesota has voted Democratic in 11 consecutive presidential elections (since it spurned George McGovern, from neighboring South Dakotain 1972). It has more electoral votes (10) than such swing states as New Hampshire (four), Iowa (six), Nevada (six) and Colorado (nine). But Minnesota’s blueness has been fading: Barack Obama defeatedMitt Romney by eight percentage points in 2012, but four years later, Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by just 1.5 points….

He also notes that she won election last year to a third term by a 24-point margin.

Of course, you know me — I prefer the pithy statement that touches on an essential truth. So my favorite line in the column was this: “In the Almanac of American Politics’ most recent (2015) vote rankings, she was the 27th-most-liberal senator, liberal enough to soothe other liberals without annoying everyone else.” Quite.

But if Will is a guilty pleasure for you, as he is for me, you might like his lede on this one, in which he dismisses one of the Democrats’ shiny new toys on the way to speaking of the more substantial Sen. Klobuchar:

Surely the silliest aspirant for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination is already known: “ Beto ,” a. k.a. Robert Francis, O’Rourke is a skateboarding man-child whose fascination with himself caused him to live-stream a recent dental appointment for — open wide, please — teeth cleaning. His journal about his post-election recuperation-through-road-trip-to-nowhere-in-particular is so without wit or interesting observations that it merits Truman Capote’s description of “On the Road” author Jack Kerouac’s work: That’s not writing, that’s typing.

When Democrats are done flirting with such insipidity, their wandering attentions can flit to a contrastingly serious candidacy…

Ow. That is way harsh. But it hits home.

Anyway, after this, you should check out the respect Will lavishes upon John Delaney, Sherrod BrownCheri Bustos (not as a presidential hopeful, but as an example of what Dems should emulate if they want to win in general), and finally… drum roll… Elizabeth Warren.

Of Warren, he says “Democrats have found their Thatcher — if they dare.” You don’t get higher praise than that, coming from a conservative.

He’s been on something of a pragmatic roll lately…

What did Sorkin say that was wrong? Absolutely nothing…

Zakaria Sorkin

Been meaning to say something about this since it came to my attention a week or so ago.

And like so many things I want to say something about, I don’t get to it, day after day, because there’s too much I want to say about it, and I don’t think I’ll have time, so I never get started. Well, let me take a very quick shot at it.

Basically, the short version is that Aaron Sorkin said some stuff that made sense, and the Democratic Party’s Peanut Gallery got mad at him about it — which illustrated a lot of what’s wrong with the Democratic Party. Which matters because somebody’s got to be the alternative to Trumpism in America, and if the Dems aren’t up to it, I don’t know who that’s going to be. (Probably not the Starbucks guy, if that’s what you’re thinking.)

Here’s the short version of what he said, in a Tweet from one who didn’t like it:

And the short version of the apoplectic reaction is, We don’t wanna grow up!

Far as I’m concerned, if Aaron Sorkin wants to run for something, he’s got an excellent shot at the Grownup Party nomination.

Here’s a clip that’s slightly longer than the one above:

That monologue is a lot like what Will McAvoy said in that opening episode of “The Newsroom.” Rougher, less eloquent, of course, since Sorkin was speaking aloud instead of writing. But it’s largely the same message — we need to get back to being the “Thank God the Americans are here” country.

Someone’s going to have to be what Sorkin calls “the non-stupid party,” since the Republicans — by their embrace of Trump — has so fervently embraced the opposite role.

If the Democrats aren’t smart enough or mature enough to take that on, someone else will have to.

This has a lot of aspects worth discussing — I’m sure there’s more I’ll want to say — but I’d thought I’d at least get it started…

You want to be president? Send me your resume, and maybe I’ll get back to you…

We may joke around, but here's one guy I can take seriously. Have the others drop off their resumes...

We may joke around, but here’s one guy I can take seriously. Have the others drop off their resumes…

One of the most maddening parts of my job working for James Smith was the way the SC press went gaga over anything having to do with anyone who might be running for president in 2020.

It was one of several irrelevant things that they often preferred to write about instead of what they should have been writing about. Others included campaign finance, ad strategy, and occasionally really off-the-wall stuff like Brett Kavanaugh or abolishing ICE. What should they have been writing about? Things that would help voters decide whether James or Henry was better qualified to be governor. Period. If you’re not providing that service to the voters, then the First Amendment has no purpose. And there was far too little of it.

(Oh, and don’t go, “Aha! Now that you’re on the other side you see how awful the press is!” Wrong. This kind of stuff had been driving me nuts for at least 30 years. It’s one of the reasons I made the transition from news to editorial back in 1994 — looking for a situation in which I could do journalism that meant something. And my alienation from the way political news is done increased enormously after that transition. Reading the paper every day as an opinion writer was painful. I’d start reading a story wanting to know one thing that would help me — and the readers — decide what to think of that particular news development, and not only would the information be missing, but I’d see no evidence that it had even occurred to the writer to ask the question.)

But maybe I’d better get to the point.

As I said, reporters got really excited about people who were looking at a 2020 run (clicks, baby!). And they’d want to interview us about them, apparently presuming we were excited, too. What do you think of this national celeb who’s coming to help your campaign? Yeah, right. They were coming to help themselves. There was only one 2020 poss about whom we cared — Joe Biden. Joe is a mentor of James’, and we very much looked forward to his coming to help us with a fund-raiser. Which he did, on Oct. 13. It was a big day, a highlight of the campaign for us — not because he might run in 2020, but because he was Joe Biden, and we loved the guy. Having him in our corner said things about us that we actually wanted said.

I’m going to get to the point, I promise…

Here it is…

We live in a country, in a world, in which the about only qualification needed to be a candidate for president (and therefore for any other office), and to be taken seriously by an alarming number of people, is to be presumptuous enough to put yourself out there. Well, that, and the ability to get some people to pay attention to you when you do.

Whom does this describe? Lots of people. To mention a few — Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and the granddaddy of them all, Donald Trump. I could mention other Republicans, but then I’d have to stop and think, and it’s the Democrats who are irritating me the most right now, on account of my recent campaign experience.

Oh, and yes, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Those two will really get a rise out of people, because they’ve been taken seriously by so many people for so long now that their candidacies seem inevitable. And I’ll grant you that Sanders has at least demonstrated one necessary capability, as counterintuitive as the fact is: the ability to get actual people to actually vote for him.

So what are my criteria for taking someone seriously for the nation’s highest office? There are a number of them. Some are intangible, like the ability to inspire or simply being a person well matched to the moment — and some of you will say some of the above fit one of those criteria. But particularly this far out, when we are first deciding whom we might take seriously, the number-one thing I’m looking at is résumé. (Sorry, Doug, but it’s one of those posts.)

What I mean by that is, when I read this person’s bio in Wikipedia or some other bland, relatively impartial source, does it say to me, “Obviously, the next step for this person is to run for POTUS?”

Joe Biden’s does, of course. Over on the GOP side, John Kasich’s looks pretty good, which is one reason why I voted for him in 2016 — if not exactly awesome. (The biggest weakness in Kasich’s bio is lack of experience in foreign policy, which of course is the most important part of a president’s job.”)

Of course, résumé isn’t everything, and it’s possible to have a thin one and still be a pretty good president — JFK and Barack Obama come to mind. But those were extraordinary individuals of great intellect and almost superhuman oratorical skill, and they both fit into the “being a person well matched to the moment” category I mentioned earlier.

And some people with good resumes are simply not politically viable. I’d put Lindsey Graham in that category. On paper, he looks good — legislator, congressman, senator, longtime leader on issues ranging from national security to judicial confirmation, now chairman of Senate Judiciary. But he’d never get elected, and not just because he’s gone off his trolley on Trump.

Once, you generally had to have a great resume to be considered at all. Look at Lyndon “Master of the Senate” Johnson, or Nixon, or George H. W. Bush. Even Reagan, whom I regarded as a lightweight at the time, had been governor of our largest state. Eisenhower, of course, had no electoral experience, but his diplomatic chops holding the Allies together in Europe were pretty awesome, and of course there was that saving-the-world-from-Hitler thing. (Harry Truman was of course an anomaly. His resume was so unimpressive that he shocked everyone with how good a job he did.)

That has changed because of all sorts of things — the decline of parties as entities that certified qualifications and suitability, the rise of uncurated media, celebrity junk culture, other things. Now, if you can generate some buzz on social media, at least some people will take you seriously as potential leader of the Free World. Even if you lack any qualification for the job — in fact, even if everything that is known about you loudly proclaims that almost anyone in the country would be better suited than you. Doubt me on that? Do I have to bring up Trump’s name again?

So anyway, forgive me if I fail to get excited when the next “2020 hopeful” comes to town. Just ask them to drop off their resumes while they’re here, and if those look good, I’ll get back to them and assess them for other qualifying factors.

Sure, dismiss me for being even more presumptuous than the wannabes themselves. But you know what? While it’s far from perfect, I guarantee you that would lead to a better field of candidates than the current non-process for identifying this week’s “it” candidate….

We love the guy, and were happy to be seen with him...

We love the guy, and were happy to be seen with him…

The Chuck and Nancy thing was an added weirdness bonus!

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We knew all along that it would be extremely weird to see the strangest president in our nation’s history by far using his first live address from the Oval Office to try to convince us there’s a crisis on our border, and that it’s worth shutting down the government in order to implement his own preferred remedy for said nonexistent crisis.

Especially since we’d been conditioned all our lives to expect such addresses to be about something, you know, important. Like escalating the war in Vietnam, or killing bin Laden.

But there was an added weirdness bonus to the evening — Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi doing a Siamese twins impersonation standing behind one small podium at the same time.

It was predicted that we’ll definitely see this odd visual on SNL this week, and there were some good shots on social media as well:

You know, we took a lot of criticism during the campaign for not separating James and Mandy more, but sheesh — at least they took turns at the microphone on their joint appearances….

The young folks just love hearing Sen. Land talk about ‘likkah’

James speaking at the event John Land hosted for us in Manning.

James speaking at the event John Land hosted for us in Manning.

On the first day of the Leave No One Behind Tour, we had two reporters and a photographer on the bus with us.

One was Maayan Schechter of The State. Maayan wasn’t at the paper when John Land was in the Senate, but she knew his rep. And when we stopped in Manning for an event the senator had set up for us, she couldn’t resist asking him to talk about “liquor.”

She has not ceased being delighted by his willing response, as I learned when a “like” by Mandy Powers Norrell drew me to this Tweet, featuring video shot that day:

If you want to know more about the senator and likkah, you might want to watch this clip from several years back:

That, of course, was a tribute to this famous bit from Mississippi politician Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr. in 1952.

Sen. Land is a South Carolina treasure.

By the way, at one point another campaign aide and I had the same idea independently of each other, proving the old saw about great minds: We both thought it would be wonderful to get Land to play Henry in debate prep. Not just because of the accent, but because Land is so sharp that he’d really have given James a workout. We didn’t follow through on it, though. A shame. I’d love to have video of that. Imagine Land saying, “Ah like it, ah love it, ah want some mo’ OF it!

On the bus that same day. That's Maayan sitting next to the photog over on the right.

On the bus that same day. That’s Maayan sitting next to the photog over on the right.

Hey, guys! A frozen moment from the campaign…

cropped-backstage-florence

Don’t know if you’ve seen the above image, one of the headers I recently added to the randomized rotation.

It wouldn’t mean a thing to you, but it made me smile when I saw it pop up just now.

There you have four of the main political operatives of the Smith/Norrell campaign, at a tense moment: They’re watching the first debate, in Florence on Oct. 17. We’re in our green room backstage. There’s nothing they can do at this point but watch and listen intently. There they are:

  • Phil Chambers, the bright young guy we had stolen away from the state party about halfway through my time on the campaign — he had set up all the logistics for the debate, to the smallest detail. (He’s the guy who, a week after the election, was out west working toward 2020.)
  • Kendall Corley, our political director. He and I shared an office at headquarters, but he wasn’t there all that much — mainly out in the field — and when he was in the office he spent all his time making phone calls or poring over maps, talking about how to deploy resources. But right now, he could do nothing.
  • Scott Harriford, deputy political director and James’ “body man” — the driver, the guy who experienced everything James did, going everywhere he went, taking care of details, shooting photos and video and texting them back to me. The first campaign staffer hired, he’d been doing all that since June 2017. But right now he could only watch.
  • Scott Hogan, the campaign manager, a guy I learned a lot from. He joined the campaign almost a month after I did. He was the pro from Dover, and I didn’t know how he’d react to a nonprofessional like me, but we ended up having a great working relationship. Don’t know what he’s worrying about there, maybe one of my Tweets.

I’m at the center of the room, between them and the TV monitor. I’m the one guy with something to do at this moment, with far too much to do, cranking out dozens of Tweets and making adjustments to the press release that I’ll put out within a minute or two of the debate’s end, working simultaneously with laptop, iPad and phone. I’m as busy as Butch and Sundance in that last scene where they’re shooting it out with the Bolivian Army.

But still, I take a moment to stand up in front of my table (you can see it in the uncropped version below) and look back at my comrades arrayed behind me, and feeling the need to record the moment, snap a quick exposure before sitting back down to my work and resuming the furious typing.

And the picture makes me smile now. Don’t know why. Maybe because things are going so well at that moment. James is clearly winning the debate, but there’s still that tension because there are 13 minutes left in the debate (photo taken at 7:47), and Something Can Always Go Wrong.

Maybe it makes me feel like Faulkner’s 14-year-old Southern boy, and we’re in the moments before Pickett’s Charge, and It’s Still Possible to Win, despite the odds.

And maybe I miss the intensity, the exhaustion tempered by the sense of mission, the excitement of this one-time experience, the feeling of doing all we can and leaving it on the field.

I don’t know. But while it’s no great masterpiece of photographic composition, it made me smile…

uncropped Florence green room

The ‘Famously Hot’ Trump protest

2017Portfolio-Fam-Hot-Logo

Doug thinks that if I’m truly opposed to Donald J. Trump, I would join protesters at today’s event at Airport High School. My response echoes that of Mr. Darcy when urged to dance: “At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable.” Mr. Darcy didn’t do country dances, and I don’t do street protests. They are to me at the very least insupportable, if not indeed anathema.

But at least I can feel some small kinship with the protesters, after reading this release from the state Democratic Party:

Columbia’s #FamouslyHot Trump Protest, 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., Airport High School, 1315 Boston Ave, West Columbia, SC 29170. Indivisible Midlands has a protest permit that runs from 4:00 – 8:00 PM and they will be standing along the sidewalks on Boston Ave starting from the corner of Boston Ave and Greenwood Drive (between the high school and middle school) and stretching towards Airport High. Parking: Protest attendees will be allowed to park **directly across the street** in the parking lots of the SC Vocational Rehab buildings starting at 4:00 PM. The lots are large enough to fit buses if groups choose to organize them. As of writing this, Boston Ave will remain open to traffic flow, so you’ll be able to get to the lots easily. Our event plans are to demonstrate outside–even once the McMaster/Trump event begins at 6:00 PM.If you choose to leave our permitted area to venture elsewhere or choose to go inside the rally where the president will be speaking if you have tickets, Indivisible Midlands is not responsible for your safety and cannot be held liable for what occurs outside the bounds of our permit. The McMaster/Trump event won’t let you take signs or much of anything inside, so you’ll need to stow any of those in your vehicles before venturing in. Again, we aren’t necessarily encouraging or discouraging anyone from going to see the president speak if they wish–the event is open to the public if you reserved ticket online. We just have no plans as an organization to do so and any disruptions that may occur once inside should not be attributed to us as such. …

As you may or may not know, ADCO is the agency that came up with Columbia’s “Famously Hot” identity.

I suspect it will seem particularly apt at about 4 p.m. today in the vicinity of Airport High School. Yet another reason to leave the whole mess to other people. I assure you that at that hour, I will be congratulating myself on not being there

Ol’ Henry can’t catch a break: Tom Davis hits him from the OTHER side of the roads-bill veto

Today, Sen. Tom Davis — a man I greatly respect but seldom agree with — endorsed insurgent John Warren in the runoff against his party’s incumbent governor, Henry McMaster.

Tom Davis

Tom Davis

What grabbed my attention was one of the chief reasons Tom offered: He’s mad at the governor over his veto of the roads bill last year.

But unlike my own representative Micah Caskey, who ripped the governor a new one for vetoing the bill, Tom’s ticked because Henry didn’t veto it hard enough, so to speak.

Tom quotes from his own statement that he had entered into the Senate Journal at the time of the veto:

“I’m also disappointed in Gov. Henry McMaster for what can fairly be described as a “drive-by veto.”  Not only did he fail to try and any build support for his gas-tax veto – I’ve yet to hear of even one instance where he met with a legislator to try and garner support for having his veto sustained – he did not provide those of us willing to fight for taxpayers with the chance to do so in his absence; he simply “checked the box” by vetoing the bill as quickly as possible and returning it to the General Assembly for an equally quick override, even though I and other reform-minded legislators asked him to delay issuing his veto so that we had a full two weeks to rally support for it being sustained.”

In a way, though, both Micah and Tom are hitting the governor for the same thing: Not taking the issue seriously enough, and acting with a disgusting degree of political expedience.

Micah was indignant that the governor never seriously offered an alternative to the gas-tax increase. This was particularly galling when the GOP leadership in the House was taking the political risk (by Republican standards) by raising the tax. I think if Henry had been pushing a real alternative, Micah could have respected him more.

Tom’s critique is that the governor merely pandered by offering the veto — something with which I think Micah would agree — without caring whether it was sustained or not (or perhaps even wishing it to be overridden, which it promptly was).

Both hit the governor for putting his own political advantage ahead of important matters of state policy. Both seem to see him as disrespecting allies and potential allies in his own party, and worse, disrespecting the people of South Carolina.

From their perspectives at either end of the GOP spectrum — that of a moderate House freshman and that of the most ideologically pure veteran senators ever to serve in the State House — they’re fed up with the governor’s fecklessness.

So both are backing James Warren.

Henry’s in trouble…

Micah Caskey last year, wadding up the governor's veto message and throwing it away.

Micah Caskey last year, wadding up the governor’s veto message and throwing it away.

What I told Andy Brack about the primaries

Andy Brack of Statehouse Report was working on a piece for today about the primaries and sent me some questions.

Well, y’all know how I hate to write anything, however impromptu and off-the-cuff, without publishing it.

So here are his questions with my answers:

1.  What did you learn and what are your takeaways from the primaries?

Andy Brack

Andy Brack

While it can be political death in a South Carolina Republican primary to openly oppose Donald Trump, telling everybody he’s your best buddy isn’t a sure road to success. Ask Mark Sanford about the first, and Henry McMaster about the second. McMaster is in a remarkably weak position for an incumbent.

2.  What do the results in the 4th district tell you about the November election?

Can’t say. I didn’t follow it. It seems beyond belief that anyone would vote for Lee Bright for anything, but apparently it happens. It looks like we all might be missing Trey Gowdy this time next year.

3.  Do you expect the governor’s race will be between McMaster and Smith, as I do?  What hurdles does Smith have to winning?  What would keep McMaster from winning?

I don’t know if Henry’s going to make it or not. Everybody seems to be ganging up on him at this point. Smith’s one hurdle is being a Democrat in a state where many white voters seem congenitally incapable of voting for someone with a “D” after his name. McMaster’s problems are his association with the Quinns, his Old School image, the fact that he wasn’t elected to the position, and the possibility that at some point his slavish devotion to Trump — at times, the relationship seems to be all he can say about himself — could become an albatross for him.

4.  Can you measure the impact of Trump on SC politics in general right now?

I sort of answered that on Question 1. But while we know the impact in a GOP primary, it remains to be seen what the effect will be in the general election.

5.  Anything else stand out?

While there were some sour notes Tuesday — Bright’s success, Archie Parnell’s success despite all, and Sanford losing for the wrong reasons — I was deeply impressed by the wisdom shown by the voters Tuesday, especially here in the Midlands. As I said on Twitter, “I’m just so pleased. From @JamesSmithSC ‘s landslide to utter rejection of Templeton to weak support for McMaster to the easy victories of @MicahCaskey and @NathanBallentin to the crushing of Dan Johnson, results were exactly what you’d expect in a rational universe. About time.”

The Three Musketeers (plus Beth Bernstein)

Joel Lourie, James Smith, Beth Bernstein and Vincent Sheheen pose before portrait of the late Sen. Isadore Lourie.

Joel Lourie, James Smith, Beth Bernstein and Vincent Sheheen pose before portrait of the late Sen. Isadore Lourie.

Joel Lourie texted me  this picture taken at the Lourie Center on the day of the primaries.

My reaction: “The Musketeers and their lady friend. And your Dad!”

Back when Joel and James Smith were first in the House in the ’90s, I used to refer to them as “the Hardy Boys,” partly because of their youth (Cindi Scoppe and I referred privately to Smith as “young James” and of course we knew Joel’s father before we knew him) but because they were inseparable allies, always working together, whatever the issue. On more than one occasion, I’d be interviewing one when he got a phone call from the other one.

Then, about the time Joel moved to the Senate, the duo became the Three Musketeers with the addition of Vincent Sheheen.

Then, starting sometime before Joel’s retirement from the Senate, Beth Bernstein became part of the group.

I don’t have a nickname for the four of them, but Joel does. Noting that back in the ’70s his Dad Isadore and other Richland County Democrats used to refer to themselves as “the Home Team,” Joel titles this photo “the New Home Team with the original coach.”

Whatever you call them, they’re a happy crew after the results of Tuesday’s voting came in…

Henry can’t get a break: Templeton, Bryant endorse Warren

From Warren's Facebook page.

From Warren’s Facebook page.

Well, here’s some bad news for Henry:

Greenville businessman John Warren received a major boost Tuesday in his quest to unseat Gov. Henry McMaster in the Republican primary runoff for governor, landing the endorsements of Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant of Anderson and Mount Pleasant labor attorney Catherine Templeton .

McMaster got only 42 percent of Tuesday’s GOP primary vote, forcing a runoff. Warren, Templeton and Bryant received a combined 56 percent. Warren finished second, and is hoping his former rivals’ backing could push him over the top.

“What you are seeing right now is unification of the conservative party — the conservative part of the Republican Party,” Warren said Thursday at a press conference. “We’ve had tough battles over the past several months in the campaign, but we are unified. And we all agree that Governor McMaster is not the right person to lead our state.”…

This particularly has to be painful to an old-school Republican like Henry, a believer in Reagan’s 11th commandment. Remember how dutifully Henry lined up behind Nikki Haley after the upstart took the nomination from him in 2010?

As for Henry being “not the right person to lead our state,” I wonder whether any of these “conservatives” will remember that in the fall if Henry is their standard-bearer…

Speaking of remembering, I was cleaning out email today and ran across this from one week ago:

CATHERINE TEMPLETON CALLS ON JOHN WARREN
TO COME CLEAN ON LAND DONATIONS

Warren Avoided Paying Over $120K in Taxes

(COLUMBIA, S.C.)  Over a three year period, John Warren avoided paying more than $120,000 in taxes. Warren refuses to explain how he did it. Therefore, conservative buzzsaw and Republican gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton is today calling on John Warren to immediately disclose to voters the specifics of his tax avoidance scheme.

Warren said he donated two pieces of property in Horry County and outside of Charlotte. A search of property records yielded no results under Warren’s name, adding mounting evidence to the idea Warren established a complicated tax avoidance syndicate.

According to news media reports, tax returns indicate Warren and his wife claimed more than $715,000 in non-cash charitable donations on their federal tax returns from 2014 to 2016. While those returns included no details, The Charleston Post & Courier reported Warren received $122,500 in tax refunds as a result of the donations. The newspaper also reported that details about the land were redacted.

“This appears to be the kind of tax dodging loophole that lets the rich get out of paying their full share of taxes,” said Templeton campaign manager R.J. May III. “John Warren claims to be an ethical businessman. But the curious nature of these land donations leads to more questions than answers. Voters and reporters should be alarmed the Warren campaign refuses to release the details.”

May also noted that Warren has accepted the maximum $3,500 campaign donation from Frank Schuler, president of Ornstein-Schuler, which facilitates these complicated tax avoidance schemes. Additionally, Schuler is president of Partnership for Conservation organization and treasurer of the Partnership for Conservation PAC. The PAC has a history of donating to liberal senators and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“While Warren claims to make ethical decisions, his land donations and close ties with Schuler could suggest otherwise. John Warren needs to explain these dealings to the people of South Carolina,” May said.

###
But I guess she’s OK with that stuff now, though…

James wins it all! And that’s just the start! These may be the best primary results I’ve ever seen in SC, all around!

I dropped by Smith HQ this afternoon and the front room was empty -- everybody was out working. And they did a great job!

I dropped by Smith HQ this afternoon and the front room was empty — everybody was out working. And they did a great job!

Don’t know what to say, except I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. In fact, I don’t remember a primary election EVER when I was so pleased with the results across the board. By my standards, everything clicked just right:

  • James Smith wins it all in a landslide! 62 percent with 75 percent reporting! No runoff or other folderol! It turns out that Democratic voters (and smart people who crossed over to vote for James) in South Carolina aren’t nuts after all, despite those anxiety-causing polls. On to November!
  • Catherine Templeton is out of it! So I guess Republicans aren’t nuts, either. Perhaps they’re beginning to recover from their malady of 2016.
  • A weakened McMaster came out on top, but faces a runoff against an unremarkable unknown most of us still don’t know (which is way better than being in a runoff with the “buzzsaw”). Which just couldn’t bode better for James in the fall — and a guy with a D after his name needs EVERY break he can get! Which is great news for South Carolina.
  • Micah Caskey seems to be cruising to a big win, so I need not feel guilty for not having personally helped him by voting in his primary. Way to go, Micah (it was that sign in my yard that did it)!
  • Byron Gipson seems to be easily beating Dan Johnson, so I worried about that unnecessarily, too. Maybe. It’s not all in yet by a long shot…

Finally, an actual great day for South Carolina at the ballot boxes…

landslide

Where do nice guys finish? Watch James Smith to find out

James greet

James Smith greets supporters in Lancaster on the day of the announcement that Mandy Powers Norrell would be his running mate.

I appreciate my friend E.J. Dionne, who is also a nice guy, bringing this to my attention:

It’s the tale of how a little old lady who served as food critic for a newspaper in flyover land was lampooned by the “sophisticates” on the coasts because she unabashedly gave a rave review to an Olive Garden… then was defended by the late Anthony Bourdain.

Bourdain wrote of the then–88-year-old Marilyn Hagerty of Grand Forks:

“She is never mean — even when circumstances would clearly excuse a sharp elbow, a cruel remark,” he wrote. “In fact, watching Marilyn struggle to find something nice to say about a place she clearly loathes is part of the fun. She is, unfailingly, a good neighbor and good citizen first — and entertainer second.”

Bourdain added that the book “kills snark dead.”

“This is a straightforward account of what people have been eating — still ARE eating — in much of America,” he wrote. “As related by a kind, good-hearted reporter looking to pass along as much useful information as she can — while hurting no one.”

So you can see how the “snarkologists” would give her unmitigated hell. How dare she be a genuinely nice person?

Which brings me to James Smith.

This past week, the three candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor or South Carolina had their final “debate” — an occasion for Phil Noble and Marguerite Willis to snarl, slash and attack James Smith in their desperation (which continues to puzzle me) to tear down the only member of their party who has the slightest prayer of winning the election in the fall.

A number of people — some of them the sort who were just then starting to focus on the race (which is ominous) — thought Smith didn’t come out of the debate well — his opponents kept scoring hits on him, and he failed to deflect the hits and didn’t fight back. (Doug hates that kind of thing. Possibly others do as well.)

It didn’t strike me that way, but then I know James, and I knew that his opponents were making innocent things out to be scandalous. For instance, he has been friends with Rick Quinn, and he was Alan Wilson’s attorney at one point. These are both things that I’ve written about approvingly here in the past, because it shows the kind of guy James is — someone who doesn’t dismiss people because they belong to another political party. You know, exactly the quality you need in a Democrat who wants to get anything done as governor, seeing as how the GOP dominates the Legislature.

His opponents were doing this because with the kind of blind partisans who might (if misled sufficiently) choose them over Smith, it is a prima facie sin to be friends with Republicans. At this point, the snarlers would protest that the sin was the taint of scandal attaching to Quinn and Wilson — but the evidence of his association is from a time years before even the slightest hint of scandal wafted in their direction.

So what’s he going to say? Protest that he was friendly with them then, but not now? An opportunist would leap at the chance to do so. But that’s not James Smith.

James Smith is the kind of guy who offers nothing but positive reasons why he wants to be governor and would make a good one. He’s not interested in slashing out at anyone, or tossing anyone to the wolves.

He could, if he possessed a different sort of character. There are plenty of things he could say about the two spoilers (who will never be anything more) attacking him. I’m picturing, for instance, a pretty devastating ad with one Democrat after another stating clearly precisely what they think of Phil Noble, based on their dealings with him.

As for Marguerite Willis, I can think of a number of ways he could undermine her, but this one would do: He could, for instance, ask her to explain why she said, in their first debate back in the winter, that workers should not have the right to organize into unions. While running for the Democratic nomination, mind. It stunned me at the time (I’m no great fan of unions, but surely people have the right to join them), but the amazing thing is that no one has asked this corporate lawyer to explain that answer — not then, not now.

Unless I’ve missed it. If this has happened, I’d appreciate a link.

Can you imagine what Ms. Willis or Noble, who attack him without letup because the NRA doesn’t hate him, would be doing with such an advantage?

But Smith does not. Because he’s just not interested in doing that.

I imagine that in the fall, James will have some critical things to say about his Republican opponent — because then, there will be substantive differences on policy to discuss. But he’s not interested in playing a gotcha game to get his party’s nomination.

Which raises the question — do nice guys finish last, or does a guy who’s only interested in presenting the positives about himself, and not looking for ways to attack his opponents, have a chance in today’s poisonous political atmosphere?

To find out, watch James Smith on Tuesday.

Phil Noble reaches out to his base… in Alabama, of course

noble ad

I’ve wondered here a number of times: Who, in South Carolina, is supporting Phil Noble for the Democratic nomination for governor?

I asked it each time he brought forth another prominent out-of-state Democrat to endorse his campaign. I kept perusing his website for lists of supporters. I looked at his donor list, and found one South Carolinian I’d heard of — an impressive one — and I was going to reach out and interview her about it… and then realized she had given to James Smith, too. She was just promoting democracy in general.

Anyway, a friend in Alabama shared with me the above full-page ad from The Anniston Star, saying “Have no idea who he is, but it does seem like something out of the ordinary.”

Not if you’re Phil. If you’re Phil, of course this is where you look for support…

OK, Micah, NOW you’ve gone and disappointed me

At least he's not in the picture the Templeton campaign sent out! Maybe it's not true!...

At least he’s not in the picture the Templeton campaign sent out! Maybe it’s not true!…

How’s this for irony? Just as I was sticking up for my representative today — again — this release was going out — and I just now saw it:

SC Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, State Reps. Bill Hixon, and Micah Caskey & Military Vets Endorse Templeton
Momentum Keeps Building for Templeton

(COLUMBIA, S.C.)  Conservative buzzsaw and Republican candidate for governor Catherine Templeton secured a long list of major endorsements Tuesday. State Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey (R-Aiken), Representative Bill Hixon (R-Aiken), and Representative Micah Caskey (R-Lexington) all threw their support behind the buzzsaw at two separate press conferences in Aiken and Lexington….

AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!

Take a breath… count to ten…

I was talking with a mutual acquaintance over the weekend who speculated that Micah had early on wanted to support Ms. Templeton, but just hadn’t been able to do so on account of, you know, the campaign she has run.

What happened?!?

What happened?!?

I almost yelled, “Shut your mouth!” But then I realized that Micah is a freshman who has boldly confronted his party’s governor, so of course he would want an alternative to Henry. He’s made a semi-powerful enemy.

In any case, I left the conversation pleased that of course, of course, Micah wouldn’t endorse the “buzzsaw.”

And now this.

As I read it… I had skipped the headline… I first read “Shane Massey,” and I thought, wow, I’ve had a lot of respect for that guy, so this is disappointing… (Shane, come back!…)

And then, WHAM! Right between the eyes.

Whatever… Do y’all remember when Micah first ran two years ago? How I had been thinking of running myself (on the UnParty ticket), but decided not to when I met him because I was so impressed with him? I’ve told that story a number of times, and each time I recall that there was only one topic that came up during our conversation that we disagreed on (which is phenomenal; I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of people I know in politics I can say that about) — and I couldn’t remember for sure later what that one thing was.

Well, I don’t have to. From now on, I can say this is the thing we disagree on. And it’s a biggie.

Oh, I’m not going to take the sign down. He’s still a great representative. Just not as great as he was this morning…

Caskey wadding up the governor's veto message and throwing it away last year.

Caskey wadding up the governor’s veto message and throwing it away last year.

John Courson resigns seat, pleads guilty. So NOW what?

The empty space in the State House underground lot. I shot this in early April .

The empty space in the State House underground lot. I shot this in early April . It’s been vacant a LONG time.

Sen. John Courson has entered a guilty plea and resigned his seat in the Senate.

This is a sad day, as I — like most people who have interacted with him over the years — have always liked and respected him, so this is very disappointing.

If you want comments from someone who is pleased by this situation and will talk with satisfaction about how the senator “got what he deserved,” I refer you to our own Doug Ross.

For me, this is an opportunity to bring up a number of things I’ve been thinking about in the last few days:

  • First, whither the Pascoe investigation? John Monk reports that Courson has “agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation into public corruption in the S.C. State House.” Is there an ongoing investigation? Because it doesn’t seem to have “ongone” anywhere in the last few months, ever since charges were dropped against Richard Quinn, Rick Quinn was allowed to plead to a misdemeanor, and the special prosecutor David Pascoe criticized the judge for not sentencing Quinn fils to prison, even though he, Pascoe, had allowed him to plead to a charge that did not warrant prison. Since then, the probe has seemed to be in limbo. Is it coming back to life now?
  • If it does come back to life — or is perceived to be doing so — what does that do to the governor’s race? Does it affect the primary a week from tomorrow? To what extent will the incumbent’s primary challengers try to make hay from this resurrection of the topic, trumpeting McMaster’s long association with Richard Quinn? To what extent will that work? (We’ll discuss later what effect all this might have on the gubernatorial race in the fall, if McMaster is the nominee.)
  • Will this cause the attack on James Smith that did not happen two weeks ago to happen now? I’m still puzzled that the rumored attack did not materialize when expected. Did the attackers have an attack of conscience (I’m trying to consider ALL possibilities, you see)? Will this tempt them to do their dastardly, unfair worst? Given some things I’ve seen happening in the Democratic contest lately (more on that later), very little would shock me.
  • What, if anything, happens in the GOP race for attorney general? Several months ago, it looked like this was going to be a knock-down-drag-out, with the Pascoe probe as the topic dominating everything else. Pascoe was telegraphing like crazy that the public official he most wanted to go after next was incumbent Alan Wilson. Todd Atwater decided to give up his House seat (now being sought by Paula Rawl Calhoon, whose ad you see at right) to challenge Wilson against that background. But with the Pascoe investigation in suspended animation recently, Wilson has been able to run a pretty conventional incumbent re-election campaign, stressing positives in his record rather than going on the defensive. Does today’s development change that dynamic?
  • What exactly did Courson plead guilty to doing? According to John, he had been charged with “misconduct in office, criminal conspiracy and converting campaign money to his personal use by taking kickbacks.” But the report says he has owned up to one count of “misconduct in office.” Since the converting campaign money to his personal use part was a separate charge, does that mean that is dropped? So what has he pled guilty to?
  • If the investigation is “ongoing,” who might be targeted that we don’t even know about? No one who knew Courson would have expected his name to come up (of course Doug knew, something that I type just to save Doug the trouble), so anybody could be a target.
  • Who will be running for Courson’s seat? I know of one person who’s highly likely to run, whom I won’t name until I get confirmation. But beyond the who, exactly how does this unfold? I assume there will be a special election, but does it occur before the election we’re having anyway this year? That Senate district has already gone a full session without representation, so what would be the hurry now, with the General Assembly practically done for the year?

Those are my first thoughts. Others will no doubt occur to me.

Caskey hit by shockingly dishonest political attack

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This is one of the most unfair, unwarranted attacks on a political candidate I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of trash in my day.

And in terms of showing contempt for the intelligence of voters, I’m sure it’s the worst. I’m insulted that it came to my home, because it is aimed at idiots. And in keeping with the times, at a particular variety of idiot — the kind that will believe a painfully obvious liar when he accuses someone else of “lyin’.” There are obviously some of those about, but most people know I’m not one of them.

To be anything other than insulted by this mailer, a person would have to be completely ignorant of the following:

  • That Micah Caskey didn’t somehow pass this long-overdue measure alone. When he voted for the gas tax increase — our state’s first in three decades, which came as part of legislation that also reformed the unaccountable Department of Transportation — he was doing so as part of an overwhelming Republican, conservative majority. He was supporting something that only unprincipled political cowards, such as our feckless governor, opposed.
  • That the gas tax increase is to be phased in over six years, and the first one-sixth of it was implemented less than a year ago.
  • That even if the entire amount had magically been raised at once, it’s far too early for anyone to expect the work it was meant to pay for to have been completed.
  • That NO ONE has ever said anything to suggest that Lexington County roads would be first in line to be fixed, and even if they had been, again, this would be awfully early to expect the work to be done.
  • That Micah Caskey has never said, to my knowledge, a false word about roads or taxes or anything else that’s come up since he’s been in office.
  • More specifically, that he has not only never said, he has never even hinted, anything that anyone, even the biggest idiot in the world (this mailer’s intended audience), could possibly interpret as suggesting that within 11 months of the first sliver of the tax increase being implemented, the road problems of his district would be solved.

Yeah, that last sentence was kind of involved. It got away from me a little and got kinda repetitive. Chalk it up to the fact that I am really ticked off to see this.

It’s not just that no candidate, even a bad one, deserves to have this kind of scurrilous crud flung at him.

It’s not just that Micah Caskey is about as far as you can get from being a bad candidate. In fact, he may be the best representative I’ve ever had. He’s one of only two political candidates whose signs I have put up in my yard ever.

No, my fury has an added edge because these out-of-state sleazebags (the organization is based in Virginia) had the unmitigated gall to cite ME as a source. They quote something Micah said that was perfectly true and reasonable, and follow it with this transparent, pernicious, entirely unsupported falsehood: “Look around… he lied.”

This is beyond disgusting.

At this point I could use a laugh, so let’s end with this: The group claims that it “does not endorse, support or oppose candidates for elected office.”

So I guess they just do things like this to good people, a couple of weeks before the primary, for the sheer fun of it…

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