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Commonviews 2002: Candidate Debates Show Individuality
Jimmy Moore
April 25, 2002

(Commonviews 2002 is a series of articles examining the most important issues in South Carolina's 2002 statewide GOP primary races. Click here to find out more about the purpose of Commonviews 2002 and how to submit your own suggestions for future topics of discussion.)

Image. Personality. Character. These are just a few of the traits of every person you ever encounter in your life. Whether you realize it or not, most of us judge people based on our instinctive first impressions of other people.

The first two televised debates of the GOP candidates for Governor have come and gone. The first one in Florence on Tuesday and the second one in Greenville on Wednesday gave us a small glimpse of the Republican choices for the highest elected state official in South Carolina.

Rather than focusing on what was specifically said about the important campaign issues such as education, tax reform, the Confederate flag and prayer in schools, I want to focus on each of the candidates individuality during the debate.

For many voters, this was their very first impression of the Republican candidates. Each candidate has a definitive style all their own. The following are my impressions of each candidate (in alphabetical order) after watching them in the televised debates this week:

This guy looked so strangely out of place in these debates. He looked like a deer in headlights every time he answered a question. And the answers he gave were extremely short and rigid. I kept asking myself the entire time WHO IS HE? I still don’t know the answer to that question. I couldn’t help but think about who is going to vote for THIS guy?

He was programmed on one message throughout the debates: VOTE FOR ME AND I’LL ELIMINATE YOUR PROPERTY TAXES. Whether the question was about education or budget problems, every question that he answered was how his plan to eliminate property taxes will help with that particular problem. He seemed genuinely concerned about the future of South Carolina in his answers. He did not back down when he was challenged on his views.

This guy is a slick, but likable politician. He would seem to do just about anything to get somebody’s vote. He’s hard to ignore because of his perpetual optimism and big smile. Sometimes that persona seemed to come across as fake, though. His excessive pointing and hand gyrations made him look like he was ranting and raving during each of his answers.

This guy seemed comfortable, but sometimes slightly irritated and smug as he spoke. His responses were well coached with a set answer for each question he was asked. He came across as the biggest politician on the stage (which is saying a lot!). He seemed combative on the issues that he disagreed with his opponents on. However, he certainly acted like a man who is currently leading this race.

He came across as very melancholy, although he spoke intelligently and passionately about his views on the issues. He, too, moved his hands a lot when he spoke. His low-key demeanor made him look and sound boring at times. He did not participate in any of the personal jabbing at the other candidates. He looked and sounded a lot different in these live debates than he comes across on his radio and television commercials.

She was only at the debate in Florence, but that was enough to get an adequate judgment of her personality. Of all the candidates running for Governor, she is the one who looks most out of place. All of her answers to the questions are a springboard for her to launch into her attack mode regarding who the real conservative is in this race. She probably thinks she is showing enthusiasm when she answers questions this way, but it is obvious that most voters stopped listening to her a long time ago!

Although he has not been elected to political office, he still looked and sounded like a politician. He was a very good public speaker and seemed knowledgable on the issues that were asked. Wearing a red tie, he exuded a quiet confidence. However, as articulate as he was, he looked peculiarly out of place on stage with the other candidates. He consistently went over his allotted time to answer questions. He took a personal shot at Condon at the end that did not seem appropriate after he had urged all the candidates to be united behind the winner in June.

There were some rather intense moments during the debate in Greenville, especially the back and forth jabbings between Bob Peeler and Charlie Condon. Here is a brief recap some of the exchange that happened at the debate in Greenville:

It started when Bob Peeler began talking about his 7-year plan to end property taxes on homes and cars. He stated that his plan would actually get rid of property taxes and not just be a tax shift (insinuating that Charlie Condon’s plan did just that). Charlie Condon countered this argument by saying that his plan is better for South Carolinians because it will get rid of all property taxes in South Carolina, not just some of them. His answer was pretty forceful as he described the differences of his plan with Bob Peeler’s. Peeler reacted to this by saying “my friend Charlie Condon needs to settle down a little bit.” Condon again reiterated that there are differences between his plan to end property taxes and Bob Peeler’s plan. On the issue of eliminating property taxes, Condon bluntly said of Peeler and his new property tax reform plan that “he (Peeler) reminds me of John McCain.” The audience gasped! When it was Peeler’s turn to speak again, he made the comment that “at least Charlie has not sued me yet.” Jim Miles, who just happened to be sitting between Condon and Peeler, got into the action by acting as a mediator between the two candidates. He said that Condon and Peeler should stop attacking each other in this campaign. The audience applauded in approval. Condon jokingly assured Peeler that he would not be suing Peeler for anything. Condon’s next couple of answers actually were in agreement with the positions taken by Peeler. Miles stirred up the crowd again when this happened shaking his fists in the air like he had accomplished world peace. Peeler exclaimed “see, we (Condon and Peeler) love each other.” Miles interjected back “then you need to act that way.”

Here are a few other quotes of interest from the Greenville debate:

In answering a question about leadership as Governor, Bob Peeler said that “anyone on this stage on their worst day would be better than Jim Hodges on his best day.”

Responding after Condon to a question about upholding the laws of the state as Governor, Jim Miles exclaimed that “Charlie Condon has done exactly what he said he’d do as Attorney General.”

“Go Peeler!” was yelled by several Peeler supporters in the audience after a Peeler answer.

At the end of the debate, Ken Wingate decided to chime in with criticism for Charlie Condon by stating “Charlie, you need to sue yourself for hijacking the (Confederate) flag issue.” He got the last word in of the debate and Condon was unable to respond to this attack.

Overall, the debates served a good purpose for voters who are unsure who they are going to vote for in the June 11th primary. ‘What you see is what you get’ is an old adage that applies to the GOP Governor’s race. Now it is your turn to share what you thought about the debate.

What do YOU think?

Were the debates helpful to you with deciding who to vote for on June 11th?

Did anyone win or lose your vote based on their performance at the debate?

How did YOUR favorite candidate do in relation to his oppenents?

Click on the "Comment On This Article" button below and discuss the debates and tell us what YOU think. Please try to limit your comments to what happened at the debates. We don’t need any political campaign speeches here. Thank you!

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