So who's paying for this party?

Make that: Who's paying for the 2016 Democratic and Republican parties' South Carolina presidential primaries?

Answer: State taxpayers.

At least that's who will keep picking up big chunks of the South Carolina presidential primary tabs if, as expected, legislation working its way through the General Assembly becomes law.

No, that news on the front page of our South section Tuesday isn't nearly as harrowing as this lead headline in Wednesday's paper:

"Mt. Pleasant taxpayers face increases."

Still, some folks deem the primary bill prima facie evidence of skewed priorities by state lawmakers who refuse to sufficiently fund roads, education, health care and the court system.

But hey, our $1.3 million share of the 2012 GOP presidential primary bill was relative chicken change in a state budget that has grown to $7 billion. And the S.C. Election Commission really should run the primary contests to minimize voting fraud, which despite protests to the contrary, really does exist.

So just think of spending your hard-earned tax money to finance South Carolina presidential primaries as a wise state investment in:

1) National exposure:

Sure, some big-time media outlets covering S.C. presidential primaries cast our state in a harsh light. But as long as they spell South Carolina - and presumably Moncks Corner - right, pub is pub.

2) Economic stimulus:

All those candidates, all their handlers and all the journalists chronicling the modern spectacle of how we choose our nation's leader have to sleep and eat somewhere, spending money all along the way.

3) More say in who wins the White House:

Barack Obama took a big step toward the 2008 Democratic nomination by rolling to a primary victory here after making a rousing speech - and picking up an in-person endorsement from 2004 nominee John Kerry - at the College of Charleston Cistern.

Until Newt Gingrich won here in 2012, every S.C. Republican primary victor since that contest started in 1980 went on to win the nomination.

Yet we haven't made much difference in recent presidential general elections - or gotten much attention from the major-party nominees.

South Carolina has gone for the GOP nominee in nine straight presidential elections by an average margin of 13 percentage points. That means Republicans haven't needed to campaign here - and Democrats haven't chased S.C. electoral votes (those rose from eight to nine in 2012) beyond their reach.

That also means our influence in the president-picking process peaks in the primaries.

Bring back the circus

But here's the best reason, saved for last, to bankroll our presidential primaries ...

4) Thrilling, acrimonious and at times hilarious presidential debates right here in our Palmetto State:

A backward look at some compelling political drama - and farce - from those forensic showdowns:

In the GOP debate at North Charleston Coliseum on Jan. 19, 2012, the first question from CNN's John King put Gingrich on the spot about his ex-wife's contention that he had asked for an "open marriage."

Gingrich's indignant reply included: "I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate."

Then again, lots of us were "frankly astounded" that Gingrich was running for president - and even more astounded that he won our state's primary.

In the GOP debate in Myrtle Beach on Jan. 10, 2008, John McCain said, "I don't believe we're headed into a recession. I believe the fundamentals of this economy are strong, and I believe they will remain strong."

Oh well, at that point, McCain also believed that he wouldn't lose to Obama by nearly 10 million votes.

In the Democratic debate at The Citadel on July 23, 2007 (for the 2008 election), Seneca native and ex-Clemson freshman football player John Edwards proclaimed, "I believe that on the issues that directly affect women's lives, I have the strongest, boldest ideas and can bring about the change that needs to be brought."

Then again, maybe Edwards was too bold in his zeal to "directly affect women's lives."

Joey, get your gun

In the Democratic debate at S.C. State in Orangeburg on April 26, 2007, MSNBC's Brian Williams asked for a "show of hands" of candidates who, "in your adult lifetime, have had a gun in the house."

Joe Biden, after raising his hand: "Shotgun - not pistol."

Feel safer now?

In the same forum, Williams read this question from "Daniel in Eastover, South Carolina":

"The NAACP has asked tourists, groups and sporting events not to come to South Carolina until the Confederate flag has been removed from the Statehouse grounds. Do you agree with that?"

Obama: "Well, look, I think that the Confederate flag should be put in a museum. That's where it belongs."

So see, Glenn McConnell's not the first presidential candidate who has had to explain his position on the Confederate flag.

Nor, once those debates crank up again little more than a year from now (they can't wait until 2016), will he be the last.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.