EDITOR’S NOTE: What do S.C. Republican Chair Chad Connelly and S.C. Democratic Chair Dick Harpootlian think needs to happen at their party’s respective national political conventions in Tampa and Charlotte?
What strengths and weaknesses do they find with President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney? Reporter Robert Behre asked them.
P&C: With so little drama expected, are these political conventions still relevant? What role do they serve?
Connelly: “I think the conventions are very relevant. There shouldn’t be a whole lot of drama because we’ve got a great nominee who has got a pinned-down, well thought-out message and we’ve got a president who, every time he opens his mouth, he offends another segment of people. … I don’t think there needs to be a lot of drama. We just need to go to work and make sure we turn our vote out and beat this guy this fall.”
Harpootlian: “My first convention was 1992 in New York, which was more contentious. Jerry Brown was still fighting with Bill Clinton, but their relevance has changed from a nomination process to a process that allows the parties to showcase their positions and their talent in such a way that the rest of the country can get some sense of who they are and where they want to go.”
P&C: What’s the most important thing that will happen at your upcoming convention?
Connelly:“I think the most important thing is we’ll get a unified message out of it. I think people are energized, and they’re ready to go to the mat to make sure Obama is not re-elected, to make sure he’s just the worst one-term president ever.”
Harpootlian: “Democrats from all over the country will come together, and this will remind everybody about how important this election is. There’s a clear choice in November between the path that Barack Obama has taken and will take and the Romney return to the politics of George W. Bush. I think you’re going to hear that theme over and over again.”
P&C: The presidential race is not expected to be competitive in this Republican-leaning state. What do you hope your South Carolina delegation takes away from the convention?
Connelly: “We’ve already been sending volunteers to North Carolina, and we’ve already been doing phone calls into other states that are swing states for turnout. … South Carolina Republicans are ready to win the (newly created) 7th (congressional district). We’re ready to add some (state) House and Senate seats. We’re ready to make sure we stay a red state for Gov. Romney, and we’re also going to be lending a hand to a bunch of other states that are indeed swing states.”
Harpootlian:“I don’t know who doesn’t expect it to be competitive. (GOP strategist) Karl Rove, as recently as a month and a half ago, called South Carolina a toss up. ... Many South Carolinians, myself included, are going to North Carolina to help up there where the latest polls have Romney and Obama dead even, and we have local races. Hopefully, the convention will energize Democrats to come back and work in their local communities.”
P&C: What do they see as the greatest strength of your party’s presidential candidate?
Connelly: “It’s pretty obvious he knows what’s going on from a business perspective. With the Olympics going on... some former Olympic athletes have come out and said they’re endorsing governor Romney. He saved the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. ... That Olympics in 2002 made money and really set some records.”
Harpootlian:“I think people trust him. They like him. ... Whether you agree or disagree with the specific measures he has taken to move this country forward, you trust him to make a decision based on what is right rather than the political flavor of the moment.”
P&C: What is the biggest weakness of the other party’s candidate?
Connelly: “I think Obama is just out of touch. His world view is a whole lot closer to something that Karl Marx theorized about in his Communist Manifesto — government control and state-planned economies —than it is to anybody who has ever run a supply-side, free-market economy. … His real-heart belief is socialism. He really believes that works and there’s just not evidence to prove that anywhere.”
Harpootlian: “They can’t trust him because in the last 10 years, he’s gone from being pro-gun control to anti-gun control. He’s gone from pro-choice to pro-life. He’s gone from pro-mandate to anti-mandate. Somebody with those kinds of major swings in positions over a short period of time, you would think a guy with the kind of money he has, could afford the medication to get that under control.”
P&C: What do you think will be the biggest political surprise between now and Election Day?
Connelly: “(President Jimmy) Carter was up 16 points at the same point (before his 1980 re-election bid, which he lost). … If the election were held today, this would be a big landslide for Governor Romney. … I don’t believe the polls are nearly as close as they say. I think they’re being bent toward Democrats. I think that’s liberal media spin.”
Harpootlian: “As soon as he (Romney) announces his vice presidential candidate, how many years of tax returns did he have to produce? If Romney needed 10 to 12 years of tax returns to vet his vice president, than why shouldn’t the people of the United States of America have the same information that Romney had to make a decision about his vice presidential candidate?”
P&C: The Democratic convention will be held very close by in Charlotte. How will that affect politics in South Carolina?
Connelly: “What are we up to now, some 20 to 30 Democratic Congressman who are not going to show up at their own convention? … I think Charlotte was really excited to get tapped for this, but Obama is not going to win North Carolina. He’s not going to win Florida. He’s not going to win Virginia.”
Harpootlian: “I think thousand if not tens of thousands of South Carolina Democrats will be going to the convention who aren’t delegates. … They’ll come back energized, charged up and ready to go to work, here and in North Carolina.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.