10:45 p.m.: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz appeared to be doing great during his prime time speech at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night. The former presidential candidate from Texas had the audience’s rapt attention, including that of the South Carolina delegation. He even mentioned the power of forgiveness demonstrated by Charlestonians after the Mother Emanuel AME Church massacre.
But then Cruz appeared to be wrapping things up with no intention of endorsing his former rival and GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump. The crowd grew angry. They began to shout and boo and shout, “Trump, Trump Trump.”
A woman from the mezzanine stood up and shouted, “say it, say it.”
Soon it became hard to hear what he was even saying. Suddenly the crowd turned to the back of the Quicken Loans Arena. Trump himself, unannounced, had entered the VIP seating section. He smiled and waved as the floor erupted in complete chaos. Nobody was paying attention anymore as Cruz concluded and left the stage.
S.C. delegates weren’t willing to concede that Trump might have entered at that moment intentionally, an attempt to take the spotlight away from a speaker who was refusing to play with the team.
“He was supposed to arrive earlier, I think,” said South Carolina’s RNC national committeeman, Glenn McCall, of Trump’s timing. “I don’t think it was intentional.”
“It was a little awkward,” S.C. GOP Chairman Matt Moore said.
But there were plenty of delegates in the South Carolina contingent who believe Cruz got what he deserved.
“Ted Cruz is a poor loser,” said Roxanne Wilson, a delegate and wife of U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.
He came to Washington and only took care of himself.”
Asked whether this could hurt his future political aspirations, Roxane Wilson said, “I hope it does.”
“I was proud,” said Steven Blanton, a delegate from Gaffney, of the crowd’s outburst. “I think it showed that the majority of the party understands it has to unify around the party’s chosen nominee.
“It shows what people suspected about his integrity and his character,” Blanton added. “He is self-absorbed and not concerned for the greater good of the party.”
“Ted Cruz has been working to divide this party for years now and what he just did on that stage was nothing different,” said Stephanie Biddle, a delegate from Aiken County who worked on U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign in South Carolina. “Honestly, I am proud of that reaction.”
Other South Carolina Republicans were alarmed by the display on the floor.
“I thought it was disappointing, the reactions of the members of the audience who failed to recognize the strength of the speech,” said Stephen Brown, a Greenville delegate.
LaDonna Ryggs of Greer, who ran Cruz’s South Carolina presidential primary operation, said she was proud of Cruz’s speech.
She said she didn’t harbor ill will towards her fellow delegates, inside and outside the state delegation.
“Everybody has a right to feel the way that they want to feel,” Ryggs said.
8:30 p.m.: Gov. Nikki Haley, as promised, paid a visit to the convention floor on Wednesday night to visit the South Carolina delegation.
Word of her presence spread through the Quicken Loans Arena like wildfire. Republican fans swarmed her for photos and handshakes. Television news producers namedropped “Chuck Todd” to lure Haley in for an interview.
“She’s not doing interviews,” her deputy chief of staff Rob Godfrey cut in, again and again.
Reporters would not relent. Photographers strained to get a picture. Some reporters ignored Godfrey and attempted to shove microphones in her direction. Meanwhile, Haley made her way down the rows of seats where the South Carolina delegates were positioned, hugging old friends and colleagues.
At one point, she was sandwiched between S.C. GOP Chairman Matt Moore and her predecessor in the Governor’s Mansion, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford. Sanford quickly climbed over several empty seats to get to the aisle, saying he had to meet his “number two son,” which is how he refers to his second oldest of four boys, Landon.
Haley is considered a “rising star” of the Republican Party, someone whose absence on the convention stage has been widely noted after enjoying a speaking slot in 2012. She has been reluctant to offer a hearty endorsement of Donald Trump, though she finally relented to MSNBC and replied, “of course,” when asked whether she would vote for the Republican presidential nominee.
Asked why so many people were excited to see her, Haley said, “I don’t know, but I always appreciate it.”
Moore said the answer was obvious: “She’s a rock star.”
“I haven’t seen anyone else have this reception during this convention that she just had,” Moore said.
Haley didn’t stay on the floor for long. She was dressed in cocktail attire, suggesting she had come from or was heading to a more formal event than the RNC.
2:50 p.m.: South Carolina GOP delegates stumbled upon a rally Wednesday afternoon to welcome Donald Trump and Mike Pence to Cleveland.
Though the fire marshal had determined the field in between the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Browns football stadium at capacity, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford was able to make his way to the event.
The Trump helicopter made several loops before landing as the theme music to the Harrison Ford movie “Air Force One” swelled over loud speakers.
Trump and Pence finally arrived to deliver brief remarks that lasted under five minutes, if that. They worked the rope line briefly before disappearing into a line of parked town cars.
Sanford, who had never attended a Trump rally before, described it as “most interesting.”
“I’d say once again it proves he’s definitely a showman,” he continued. “You had the dramatic, multiple flyby’s with the helicopter before landing to seemingly build suspense and anticipation. I’d say that particular style is a very long way from a style that I’m used to or comfortable with. Way too showy for my taste. But it is what it is and it has certainly served him well in the real estate business and we’ll see if it serves him well going forward in this presidential contest.”
11:30 a.m.: As delegates prepare to enjoy an afternoon at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ohio health officials confirm that staffers with the California delegation in Cleveland have definitely been infected with norovirus, a serious stomach bug.
S.C. Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore was sick on Sunday evening, but has since recovered and doesn’t believe it was norovirus that put him out of commission for several hours. He has stayed active throughout the week and later on Wednesday afternoon plans to participate in a forum on GOP millenials.
10:30 a.m.: On the convention floor on Tuesday, per tradition, each delegation shared some points of pride about their home states as they announced the number of delegates pledged to each candidate. When it came time during the nominating process for South Carolina to present, S.C. GOP Chairman Matt Moore boasted of the Palmetto State being “the first in the south” and “the home of barbecue. He also spoke of South Carolina being “the state of Amazing Grace,” which Moore on Wednesday morning told the Post and Courier was an allusion to the aftermath of the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
10 a.m.: U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., had only planned to be in town a full day for Republican National Convention festivities. However, he has extended the trip until Friday morning at the request of his second oldest son, Landon, who told his father yesterday he wanted to experience the major political event. This is the first time Sanford has had a chance to host one of his four boys at the RNC. “They were all too young before,” he explained. Landon Sanford is due to arrive in town Wednesday evening.
9:30 a.m.: U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, Gov. Nikki Haley, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, Attorney General Alan Wilson and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford all addressed the S.C. GOP delegation at breakfast Wednesday morning. Scott left quickly after remarks but the others lingered following the speaking program, with Haley taking photos and shaking hands with most everyone who asked. Haley plans to visit the convention floor either tonight or tomorrow, or maybe both. She will be participating in some Republican Governors Association events.
Another busy South Carolina Republican this week has been U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, who as a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee has been invited to speak at a dinner hosted by the Connecticut delegation and participate in a lunch with Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on the House GOP’s “Better Way” legislative agenda.
8:30 a.m.: The Post and Courier caught up with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott on the walk to the delegation breakfast, around the corner from the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Cleveland. Scott arrived in town late Tuesday night after campaigning in Pennsylvania for his embattled U.S. Senate colleague, Republican Pat Toomey. Scott co-headlined a Toomey event with his fellow U.S. Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham. It was the first time the two Senators had ever campaigned together.
“He’s certainly funnier than I am,” Scott quipped of Graham, who is not attending any part of the Republican National Convention this week.
Scott delivered brief remarks at the breakfast, using his signature call-and-response routine to energize the crowd and proclaiming, “our answer to what ails us will happen on November the 8th, when Donald Trump becomes the president.”
Scott told The Post and Courier he has events to attend on Wednesday with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, then he hits the road for Iowa to campaign with U.S. GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley. Scott will not attend the Wednesday evening session of the RNC.
8:10 a.m.: Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford have arrived in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, joining U.S. Reps. Joe Wilson and Tom Rice, who have been here all week.
Haley will headline the Wednesday morning breakfast meeting of the South Carolina GOP delegation.
On Tuesday night, delegates attended a party in a “speakeasy”-type bar attached to the House of Blues in downtown Cleveland in honor of S.C. GOP Chairman Matt Moore. All the members of the S.C. delegation were invited. Attendees included Sanford, former state Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly and former State Rep. and Canada Ambassador David Wilkins.
Also on Tuesday, the Post and Courier caught up with Tom Colicchio, a restaurateur best known as the head judge of the reality television cooking competition show “Top Chef,” which filmed its most recent season in Charleston.
Colicchio is also a food policy advocate, lobbying lawmakers to take the right votes, from expanding access to nutritious food to helping farmers maintain their livelihoods in an increasingly challenging environment.
Standing on a street in Cleveland touting his most recent initiative to pressure presidential candidates to take the right stand on food policy – it’s called “Plate of the Union” – Colicchio said his recollection was that the predominantly-Republican South Carolina Congressional delegation had a poor track record when it came to supporting his cause.
However, he said things were changing.
“If you want to talk about a country being strong, you have to talk about the health of the nation,” Colicchio explained. “These are issues that affect everyone, and these are issues that (Republicans) should care about. They aren’t political, but the only way to get focus on them is to politicize them right now.”
Colicchio will also be at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next week.
Before parting ways, Colicchio gave Top Chef fans a preview of what to expect from the upcoming season in the Holy City.
“One thing that I found very interesting is, obviously, there is a food history in the south that includes both African-Americans and also whites,” he said. “We didn’t shy away from that. We didn’t politicize it at all, but we didn’t shy away from it. It’s not something we pushed for, it just happened organically.”
Check back at wwww.postandcourier.com for updates here throughout the day.