The circus is coming to town next week, and Tim Scott is already practicing his breath-taking, death-defying, high-wire act.
Yes, as soon as the New Hampshire votes are counted Tuesday, Trump and Cruz, Kasich and Carson, Barnum and Bailey and all the other clowns will roll into South Carolina for two weeks of barnstorming and three-shows-daily tent revivals.
And our junior senator came out Monday evening, just before the Iowa caucus voting closed, and endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Talk about death-defying.
Scott is without a doubt South Carolina’s most popular statewide-elected official, a darling of our considerable conservative voting bloc. And he just went and endorsed the candidate of choice for the Republican establishment.
That takes guts (especially this year) because, as the most fervent right-wingers often demonstrate, all you have to do is make one bad decision and you are persona non grata with them.
So is Scott’s reasonable endorsement going to cause him any problems?
Take Gov. Nikki Haley as an example of the intolerance in certain GOP factions.
For five years she was the darling of the tea party, could do no wrong. But last year she took down the Confederate battle flag at the Statehouse and in January delivered a very reasonable response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union.
And some folks on the right dropped her quicker than Jim DeMint quit the Senate.
That’s two strikes with a group that often doesn’t cotton to one. So Haley’s endorsement won’t hurt her — the damage is done.
Now, Scott stood by the governor when she called for the flag to come down, but he didn’t get nearly the blowback she has suffered.
Maybe it’s his conservative voting record, a crowd-pleaser among many of these folks. Perhaps it’s just because they have to have someone they like, and it sure isn’t Lindsey Graham.
Some conservatives haven’t warmed to Rubio because they are suspicious of his immigration stance, which is their main issue. Still, Congressman Trey Gowdy endorsed him — but then, he’ll always have Benghazi. That’s earned him the undying love of the Hillary-haters.
As for Scott, though, already the stirrings of discontent have shown up on message boards and the comment sections of various websites, where people have muttered “loser,” “we need DeMint back” and “he wants to be VP.”
But it hasn’t gotten too loud, and probably won’t.
“I don’t think it is high risk for him,” said veteran South Carolina political scientist Neal Thigpen. “With his numbers the way they are, he’d have to do more than simply endorse Rubio to get people mad.”
You would hope.
Scott obviously doesn’t think he’s taking a chance.
After all, he has to run for a full term this year, and it’s much easier for people to register their displeasure when your name is on the ballot.
He must figure it’s safe and, as Thigpen said, he probably is. Still, the Trump and Cruz sycophants clearly weren’t wild about Scott’s endorsement, seeing as how he sounded so “establishment.”
Truth is, the far right would do well to listen to Scott. Take this key message in his taped Rubio endorsement: “We have one shot in 2016 to beat Hillary Clinton. That shot is Marco Rubio.”
Is he right? Who knows — there’s a lot of voting left, and Rubio has one third-place finish to his name. But there is a reason the Republican establishment calls Cruz a “disaster” and Trump the “Titanic.”
They can do basic electoral math, something that apparently eludes many folks.
So people need to lay off Scott and stop assuming he has some ulterior motive, other than getting a Republican elected president.
Anyone who doesn’t like the candidate Scott recommends is free to vote differently. It doesn’t mean Scott needs to be publicly damned or written off as a useless politician.
The drama queens on the right break up with former crushes all too often these days, and it’s getting to be a bit much.
It’s called a difference of opinion and, used to be, Americans were mature enough to handle that.
Those were the real good ol’ days.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.