It’s a great day in South Carolina ... for dirty campaign tricks.
With the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates descending on the state next week for this month’s primaries, voters are bracing for what could be a resurgence of the sort of nastiness seen in earlier campaigns that gave South Carolina such a bad reputation on the national stage.
Perhaps the benchmark is the George W. Bush vs. John McCain race of 2000.
As a refresher: McCain flew into South Carolina fresh off a big win in New Hampshire, meaning the stakes were running extra high for Bush and what most everyone presumed would be an easy path to the White House.
But then the McCain momentum stalled.
Reports surfaced of South Carolina voters being asked bogus polling phone questions, such as “Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?”
The query was widely seen as a reference to McCain’s adopted daughter from Bangladesh, Bridget, who was 9 at the time. It was one of several underhanded attempts to tar McCain, the former Vietnam prisoner of war, originating from the Bush side.
Seven years later, Mitt Romney found out he, too, wasn’t immune from anonymous smears. For Christmas 2007, some South Carolina Republicans received a professionally produced Christmas card — allegedly signed by “The Romney Family” — which included a quotation from a 19th century Mormon leader suggesting God had more than one wife.
The card was immediately condemned by the Romney campaign as a dose of “deception and trickery” in its portrayal of the Mormon faith as it targeted voters in a heavily evangelical-influenced primary.
While there are no reports yet of shenanigans by any of the campaigns in South Carolina, The Post and Courier is launching a Web app to allow readers to report what they see as offensive campaign offerings from both the Republican and Democratic sides. Readers can access the site at postandcourier.com/dirtytricks.
Examples may include mailings you receive at your home or phone calls from pollsters who ask objectionable questions trying to push your political thinking in a certain direction. These are commonly called “push” polls.
Uploading photographs of signs or other questionable items are encouraged when possible.
The newspaper may use what you report as part of its coverage as the campaigns move forward over the next three weeks.
Republicans hold their primary on Feb. 20. Democrats vote a week later on Feb. 27.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551