1 South Carolina’s nasty reputation was overblown.
The lead-up to Saturday’s vote was more like a PG-13 movie than one rated R.
Sure, the candidates did throw punches at one another, but it was nothing out of the ordinary for a modern-day political campaign.
Other than an 11th-hour hoax email about Newt Gingrich’s past marital problems, fears that the worst brand of mud would be thrown around never truly materialized from a South Carolina political “bogeyman.”
2 We were polite but, the TV ads from “off” weren’t.
Complaints about negative advertising should be directed squarely at the candidates’ media staffers and out-of-state single-interest groups.
The candidates and the Super PACs spent upward of $12 million to sway the electorate during the primary’s 10-day lifespan, running 30-second TV commercials more than 25,000 times statewide during the two weeks. A single Ron Paul ad was tougher on his GOP opponents than anything he said during the campaign, accusing them of “whimpering like little shih tzus.”
3 South Carolina’s coast: The best backdrop.
Most of the visiting media dissected the evangelical vote and Christian conservative wing of the Republican Party anchored in the Upstate. But no one wanted to go there.
Of the final three media debates or forums televised by Fox and CNN, two were held in Charleston and one was held in Myrtle Beach. As a result, chambers of commerce and oceanside tourism bureaus scored big windfalls from the exposure. Has the College of Charleston ever looked better on national TV?
4 Gov. Nikki Haley should be concerned.
Haley put a lot of political capital into selling Mitt Romney to the Republicans of South Carolina, who in turn rejected her choice, shooting her down in her role as kingmaker.
Haley, elected as a darling of the tea party movement, endorsed Romney, who is not. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, meanwhile, made the right call when he shifted to Gingrich after Rick Perry’s early exit.
Will Haley pay a price during her re-election bid two years from now for drifting away from her base or in misreading the state’s mood? Haley said she’ll continue to campaign for the former Massachusetts governor.
5 Single-digit candidates shouldn’t bother coming.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman finished third in New Hampshire and proclaimed that he’d earned “a ticket to ride” in South Carolina. Texas Gov. Rick Perry came in promoting the state’s ties to the Alamo defenders. Both flamed out early, long before the vote.
One key point about their departures: Each man left before having to face a potentially uncomfortable and physically draining two-hour nationally televised debate.
6 Debates do matter.
Two debates held three days apart seemed excessive. But they were so overly dominated by Newt Gingrich’s performance in Myrtle Beach on Jan. 16 that he was able to move from 10 points down toward his impressive victory Saturday. No other candidate was as effective on national broadcast TV.
7 The Democrats still project Romney as the nominee.
Not a day passed during the last two weeks that state and national Democrats didn’t hold a press conference or issue a statement bashing Mitt Romney over some aspect of his campaign. Meanwhile, all the other hopefuls were mostly ignored. The same pattern held true after the results were counted Saturday.
“He came into South Carolina with a 20 point lead — a state where jobs and the economy is the number one issue — and the candidate who hung his entire candidacy on these issues, Mitt Romney, saw his support collapse,” said DNC ChairwomanDebbie Wasserman Schultz. “Why? Because Mitt Romney’s been exposed as being out of touch with the middle class, and voters are seeing that he lives by another set of rules.”
8 South Carolina Republicans are excited.
The more than 600,000 votes in Saturday’s primary was well above the turnout in the 2008 GOP primary.
That year, the numbers showed 445,499 turned out for a primary in which Arizona Sen. John McCain eked out a 33-30 percent win over Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Romney placed fourth; Paul fifth.
Excitement for Gingrich also dominated Saturday’s numbers. He won or led every county in South Carolina, except Richland, Beaufort and Charleston.
9 Ten days between votes is the right amount of time.
All the headlines created in South Carolina after the New Hampshire primary ended seemed to thrive and get vetted.
From Romney’s tax returns and Bain Capital to Gingrich’s marital affairs and Perry’s and Huntsman’s lack of viability, all received enough coverage to leave few questions in voters’ minds.
10 Keeping South Carolina third in the process matters, no matter the cost.
The state Republican Party’s decision to go against the national party’s wishes by moving the primary up in the selection calendar to preserve its “first-in-the-South” status was worth it.
Sure, state Republicans could lose half their delegates to the 2012 convention as a penalty, but so what? South Carolina’s leadoff position allows it to become the center of the political universe for a couple of weeks and for its voice to be heard.
The candidates had to talk about topics of importance to residents here.