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GOP in South Carolina

Last I checked, the South Carolina Knippenbergs couldn’t agree on a candidate. But the latest two polls reveal a McBounce in South Carolina.

I assume that tonight’s debate will be important, especially for Huckabee.

If I take this poll seriously, Huckabee has four challenges in S.C. The first is that he’s splitting the evangelical vote with McCain. His support is a little more solid, but to win, he needs, first of all, to consolidate his base. Second, he’s contesting with Thompson and Romney for the affections of those who regard "true conservatism" as the touchstone of their vote. I have a hard time seeing how he adds to his modest lead here. He might get a little traction by continuing to stress his socially conservative stances, but he has a harder time running as a "true conservative" on the rest of his record. Third, McCain seems to be the second choice of a significant percentage of the Romney supporters. Should Romney do poorly in Michigan (a real possibility, I think), he’ll likely hemorrhage in S.C., with McCain picking up more support than Huckabee. Were he able to run to McCain’s right on something other than social issues and (a little less plausibly) immigration, he might do better.

Finally, the two big statewide Republicans--Lindsay Graham and Jim DeMint--are supporting McCain and Romney, respectively. My impression is that Graham’s support is a mixed blessing, or perhaps even a negative, so Huckabee shouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Demint’s popularity is more solid, but I don’t think even he will be able to resuscitate Romney’s fortunes if he does poorly in Michigan.

Bottom line: if McCain wins Michigan, he’ll be harder to beat in South Carolina. Huckabee can’t afford "silver medals" in MI and SC. I might be tempted, if I were him, to let McCain and Romney slug it out in Michigan, while doing what I can to turn South Carolina into a bastion. Romney gets less in South Carolina out of a Michigan victory than does McCain.

My bad prognostication and advice, for what little it’s worth.

Update: Will this help Huckabee?

Update #2: Geraghty has Thompson the winner, at Huckabee’s expense, as does this local professorial blogger. The Cornerites loved Fred too. But this Fred wasn’t as impressed by that Fred, handing the kudos to Huckabee. At this point, however, all Fred T. can do is help one of the other candidates--most likely McCain in South Carolina. For all else, see Peter’s impressions above.

Discussions - 12 Comments

I have to admit, after reading George Will's low brow comments on Huck today (not knowing Darwin! It's Will who does not know Darwin, thus has no idea how to even begin a rational conversation about Neo-Darwinism, science, religion, etc.) I am thinking about voting for him as a protest vote if nothing else. I am a social and economic conservative (Orthodox, not "evangelical") and this election has really revealed to me both the liberalism of the GOP establishment and their disdain for traditional and social conservatives. If anyone thinks for a second that country club Mitt would actually go against the WSJ crowd by doing anything EFFECTIVE on immigration, abortion, schools, etc. they have not been paying attention the last 40 or 50 years. At least with Huck, one has a CHANCE of getting something remotely conservative out of him. I will take the liberal as well, as that is exactly what you get (contrary to the rhetoric) from the country clubers.

Yep, the more I think about it, or rather the more I listen to the Republican Establishment, the more I think Huck might be my man.

Anyone else offended by Will's post today (whether you are a Huck supporter or not)?

Christopher, evolution is a litmus test among the elitocons for "sophistication." This issue bit Ron Paul as well. All the atheistic establishment libertarians were in a lather.

Of course Will was offensive. I would like to write Huck a speech on this Darwin issue, and I'm close to the protest vote too now.

I think Joe overstates Huck's stakes and difficulties here in SC. The SC vote is split, but I look for undecideds to break to Huck and to a lesser extent McCain. Michigan COULD change it for Romney but it's probaby not in the cards. Huck has a base and is likely to expand it, both here and nationally. The soldier has to prove he can sustain suppot among the base. I'm close to voting for Huck, esp if Peter writes his Darwin speech.

I am a social and economic conservative (Orthodox, not "evangelical") and this election has really revealed to me both the liberalism of the GOP establishment and their disdain for traditional and social conservatives.

I just thought that was a point that stood repeating. They don't even try to hide their contempt any more. And they are equally as hostile to libertarians and small government conservatives.

What's the appeal of Huck and McCain on SC? I guess I find McCain odder than Huck. Still, I thought it was a state with more "conventional" conservatives in it.

As for the McCain appeal, there are loads of military retirees, folks like my dad, who I don't think it a McCainiac (yet).

Rob,

Thanks for chiming in from Upstate. How different are the areas around Columbia and the coast (assuming that Charleston is a place unto itself)? I've seen a lot of Huckabee campaigning in your area, and he had the preponderance of the signs in the S.C. suburbs of Charlotte when I was there a couple of weeks ago. McCain seems to be spending his time elsewhere in the state.

I wonder if Bob Jones III is reconsidering his Romney endorsement right about now?

Joe, 40% or so of the Republican vote in SC is in the Upstate, which is more evangelical, more yankefied, but also more old Confederate Scotch-Irish than the rest of the state. Huckabee was well-liked here before his rise in Iowa. He won the straw vote of the Spartanburg County Rep Party at their annual convention last Spring, due to a great speech. The party apparati up here in many counties were by and large committed to Romney more than a year ago. Romney spent/contributed mucho dinero up here beginning two years ago. I think now that Huck will carry the Upstate, but by how much? That's the question. Our congressman by the way is supporting Huck, Bob Inglis, a sort of Bobo Republican who fancies himself as a thinker outside of the box and has been critical of the Bushies. Both he and his sharp wife are Chapel Hill grads. Giuliani was strong in the low country early on--lots of Old Charleston support (most of my KA's were for him last Spring). McCain wilted early--even with all the endorsements Lindsey Graham garnered for him. In the Spring everyone was saying he was too old and going for either Rudy or Romney. Later on it was the immigration bill. Rudy's indifference to SC and his overall feckless vanishing act has freed some RG supporters to go to Huck--same maybe with Mitt depending on outcome in Michigan. McCain I think has a ceilinged vote in SC (how low is the question), because of immigration and memories of 2000, etc. I look for a highly competitive race between John and Huck in the end. Fred made a move tonight and that could hurt Huck, but my impression of the debate was that Huck was in the end more stage center than Fred, and that voter reaction to the attacks on him and the hostile questions--and to his responses--will be the dynamic in play. Huck in my view solidified his evangelical base with the response to the marriage question--and the Fox questions only added to the potential protest votes for Huck. Anecdotal evidence: My student who is president of Wofford College Reps and experienced politically, who was a gung ho McCain supporter early on, is now leaning to Huckabee.

Thanks. That helps.

Robert-very interesting analysis. I don't know your student, but I know many young people who were with McCain early (I was one), but once he collapsed went elsewhere. He will gain some back now-those who went to Rudy and Mitt, but those like myself, who went to Huck will not return unless McCain wins the nomination. Anyway, great update on the SC lay of the land.

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