Where county GOP chairmen stand

Top three presidential choices

Greenville County Chairman Chad Groover

1) Gov. Rick Perry, Texas

2) Gov. John Kasich, Ohio

3) Gov. Mike Pence, Indiana

Lexington County Chairman Bill Rentiers

1) Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky

2) Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas

3) No one

Charleston County Chairman John Steinberger

1) Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin

2) Gov. Pat McCory, North Carolina

3) Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas

Spartanburg County Chairman Nic Lane

1) U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina

(tie) 1) Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina

3) Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky

Richland County Chairman Eaddy Roe Willard

Declined to name three; wanted to stay publicly impartial.

Horry County Chairman Robert Rabon

1) Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin

2) Gov. John Kasich, Ohio

3) Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina

Anderson County Chairman Dan Harvell

1) Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida

2) Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas

(tie) 3) Former congressmen Allen West, Florida, and J.C. Watts, Oklahoma

York County Chairman Wes Climer

1) Former Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana

2) Gov. John Kasich, Ohio

3) Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin

Beaufort County Chairman Nick Sprouse

1) Sen. Mike Lee, Utah

2) Gov. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana

(tie) 3) Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina.

Aiken County Chairman KT Ruthven

1) Retired surgeon Ben Carson

2) Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida

3) Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina

Other

Berkeley County Chairman Terry Hardesty

1) Gov. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana

2) Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin

3) Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina

Dorchester County Chairman Jordan Bryngelson

1) Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin

2) Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey

3) Gov. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana

*Survey order based on GOP turnout for 2008, the last time there were competitive Republican and Democratic presidential primaries in the state.

York County GOP Chairman Wes Climer spoke for a lot of leaders representing South Carolina's biggest Republican counties in saying he favored a state executive in the White House.

"I want a governor, not a legislator," he said. "Governors make decisions that have consequences that affect people. Legislators debate; governors do."

Horry County Republican Chairman Robert Raybon took a similar view, listing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and South Carolina's Nikki Haley as his top three picks for president in 2016.

"These governors, they have administrative experiences and they have done fabulous jobs for each one of their states," Rabon said. "I highly recommend each of those three."

The pro-governor trend emerged as part of a Post and Courier survey this month with the party leaders from the top 10 traditionally largest GOP-turnout counties. While state chief executives weren't the only favorite type of job experience listed, it was still the most consistent.

Others in the survey, though, said the party would be wise to also look at minorities, saying there should be a real push for 2016 to expand the reach of the GOP.

More than one said they favored the politics of U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the Senate's only black Republican, while others were high on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as a top-three choice, describing him as a bridge-builder to the increasingly significant Hispanic community.

"He's basically the 'American Dream,'?" Anderson County Chairman Dan Harvell said of Rubio. "He's very impressive. He can speak for 45 minutes without a teleprompter within a mile of him."

Governors hold a distinct advantage in drifting toward a run for the White House over a congressman or senator, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore said.

"They can more easily define their agenda and get things done by force of personality or politics," Moore said. "It's nice to be 'one of one,'" instead of "one of a hundred."

Another factor is that governors are positioning themselves as being a "million miles away from Washington's gridlock," Moore added. "It's smart politics," he continued. "Things are getting done in state capitals."

Some of the more popular governors in the survey have already made trips to South Carolina, even showing a strong kinship with Haley, who has networked with several through their relationship in the Republican Governors Association, which is meeting this weekend in Washington, D.C.

Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Texas Gov. Rick Perry were notably on hand for Haley's re-election announcement in Greenville in August.

While South Carolina is secure in its status as the first GOP primary in the South (set for February 2016), visits by potential candidates have cooled off in recent months. Moore said the lull is temporary.

"The U.S. Congress is busy and most states are holding their legislative sessions," he said. "Potential candidates are very busy, some with their own re-election campaigns. I think the line of potential candidates helping Governor Haley this summer and fall will be long."

Elsewhere, Charleston County Chairman John Steinberger also favored governors, listing Walker of Wisconsin (for getting "a lot done in a Blue State") and Gov. Pat McCory of North Carolina, but also Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Others said they favored the strong adherence to the conservative principles of less government intrusion. Lexington County Party Chairman Bill Rentiers put Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky as his first choice.

"Because he understands the Constitution and freedom and liberty, and that we're not a democracy, we're a republic," he said.

The counties listed in the survey were Greenville, Lexington, Charleston, Spartanburg, Richland, Horry, Anderson, York, Beaufort and Aiken, though Richland's leader declined to participate.

The order was based on the 2008 presidential primary year, which was the last time there were competitive presidential primaries for Republicans and Democrats. These counties also traditionally remain among the strongest GOP turnouts.

None of the leaders from the top 10 counties listed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who recently was entangled in the "Bridgegate" scandal, as a top-three selection.

Locally, though, Jordan Bryngelson, chairman of 13th-ranked Dorchester County, did include Christie among his choices. He considered him "a pretty straight shooter."

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551