Peeler Campaign And Supporters Having A Cow
June 18, 2002
"It's a two-man race, and it's going to be a dogfight."
"I kind of like a good tussle."
"I look forward to getting to know Mark better over the next couple of weeks and I really look forward to the voters of South Carolina getting to know Mark better over the next two weeks."
“This isn't personal.”
“I like Mark Sanford.”
“I’m not saying negative things about anybody.”
“The tone of my campaign hasn’t changed. People know me.”
“I think the people of South Carolina will decide (which ads are true)."
- Recent quotes from Lt. Governor Bob Peeler reacting to his sudden shift to a negative campaign since coming in second in the Republican primary for Governor to former Congressman Mark Sanford.
After receiving an unexpected and stunning blow to his campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor when he came in second to Mark Sanford after the June 11th primary election, Lt. Governor Bob Peeler and his increasingly rambunctious supporters have borderlined on lunacy with the obnoxious way they have acted and reacted over the past week. In today’s slang vernacular, they’re having a cow (all pun intended)!
It all began on primary election night when it quickly became obvious that the GOP gubernatorial race was going to pit Bob Peeler and former U.S. Congressman Mark Sanford in a tighter runoff race than expected. Peeler assumed throughout the primary campaign that he was the frontrunner. After running a rather low-key primary campaign, Mark Sanford was able to catch up to and pass Bob Peeler at the ballot box. That is when the Peeler campaign realized they needed to change their strategy dramatically if they hoped to overtake Sanford on June 25th. Bob Peeler himself threw down the gauntlet at his victory party by immediately criticizing Mark Sanford. It was only the beginning of the barrage that would follow, though.
Bob Peeler said last Wednesday that "the people of South Carolina will have a very distinct view of what Gov. Bob Peeler would be." However, if what we have seen from Peeler so far in the runoff campaign is any indication of the way he would conduct himself as Governor, then we might as well keep Democrat Jim Hodges in there! The Peeler campaign and supporters have desperately attempted to portray Mark Sanford as a liberal because of what they call key aspects of his voting record in Congress. But the surly political games they are engaging in would make even Dick Harpootlian look like a conservative!
It all started on the eve of the primary election on June 11th. A mysterious postcard mailing went out to households all over the state regarding the supposed “real” voting record of Mark Sanford. This postcard was later found to be linked to the Peeler campaign, despite their denial of any involvement with it. Most telling was how the Peeler campaign responded. Rather than denouncing the postcard and any form of negative campaigning, they simply said that the information on the postcard seems to be accurate. In other words, we like what it says and don’t mind telling you to believe it, but we had nothing to do with it! Does the Peeler campaign honestly believe the voters are THAT stupid?!
Then, an unbelievable television attack ad against Mark Sanford started airing on Wednesday, immediately following the primary election. The infamous political spot shows a soldier being stripped of his gear and clothes as an announcer talks about Sanford’s alleged poor voting record on military issues. A man in a suit meant to represent Sanford tosses the items he rips off in a pile as the voiceover says how Sanford's votes hurt America’s defense and damaged veterans.
After screening this commercial with several South Carolina veteran’s groups, Peeler claims that Sanford never worked in the best interests of the military during his three terms the U.S. House of Representatives, which ended after he term limited himself in 2000. The Peeler campaign claims that the ad is not a personal attack on Mark Sanford, but rather an illustration of the some key differences between the GOP gubernatorial candidates.
The Peeler campaign says they are "simply trying to make sure that voters know Mark Sanford's true record as a Congressman." But what they are doing with this ad is perpetrating an outright lie regarding Sanford’s voting record. Sanford consistently voted against growing the size of government and lowering the overall tax burden regardless of the other items in a specific bill. Getting rid of pork barrel legislation is what he ran on and that is what he did while he was in Congress. That is why he was reelected overwhelmingly twice with the largest percentage of the vote of any other member of the U.S. Congress! And don’t forget that the 1st Congressional District has a heavy population of military veterans and retirees, too.
With thousands of votes cast over his six-year stint as a Congressman, it would literally take days to explain all of the intricacies of every vote on every bill that crossed Mark Sanford’s desk. These kind of machine gun attacks against Mark Sanford’s voting record from the Peeler campaign are preposterous and should not play a role in statewide elections in South Carolina! Candidates like Peeler begin running down their opponent only when they are bankrupt of any substantive ideas themselves.
Here’s a thought: since the Peeler campaign is only interested in showing the “differences” between the two GOP gubernatorial candidates, then how would they like it if the Sanford campaign decided to run a television commercial of their own. In the commercial, there would be a split screen. On one side, a typical day for Mark Sanford while he was a Congressman would be portrayed showing him working non-stop. On the other side of the screen, we see Bob Peeler in what he describes as his “part-time job” reclining back in his Lt. Governor's office drinking a glass of milk and twiddling his thumbs with an occasional sigh? Would the Peeler campaign consider this ad a "personal attack?” But it would only be pointing out the real "differences," right?
Thursday brought about even more bad news for the Peeler campaign when the third-place finisher in the June 11th primary, Attorney General Charlie Condon, chose to endorse Mark Sanford for Governor. Condon blamed anonymous third party groups and the Peeler campaign for spreading false information about him that resulted in his own drop in the polls. When he saw the same thing happening to Peeler’s runoff rival, Condon chose to support Mark Sanford in the runoff election. Although they quickly dismissed Condon’s endorsement of Sanford by saying they have lots of Condon supporters on their side, the Peeler campaign desperately sought after and wanted Condon’s endorsement for themselves.
But even the Peeler campaign’s list of Condon supporters who are now supporting Peeler is statistically laughable. After scrambling for days even before the primary election to get Condon supporters to sign on with the Peeler campaign, only a measly 47 Condon supporters out of the 49,000 votes cast for Condon in the primary election have come forward in support of Bob Peeler. As former GOP candidate for Governor Reb Sutherland would say “DO THE MATH” and that comes out to LESS THAN ONE PERCENT OF ONE PERCENT of all the people who voted for Charlie Condon.
NEWS FLASH: That is not exactly going to shake up this runoff election very much!
Finally, on Friday, a political nuclear bomb detonated on the Peeler campaign when Congressman Lindsey Graham appeared in a television ad paid for by the Sanford campaign denouncing the anonymous negative attacks on Mark Sanford’s voting record. Graham and Sanford were both elected to Congress in the historic 1994 Republican takeover of the U.S. House and Senate. Graham says to the camera in the ad, "I can tell you firsthand that as a member of Congress, Mark was a highly respected and committed conservative." Not once in the ad does Graham, who is hoping to succeed Strom Thurmond in the U.S. Senate, endorse Sanford’s candidacy for Governor. Graham filmed the ad before the primary election to respond to alleged attacks on Mark Sanford by Jim Hodges and the Democrats.
You would think from the way that the Peeler campaign and their supporters have overreacted to this ad that Lindsey Graham himself had switched to the Democratic Party! The response still being emitted from the Peeler campaign since the Graham ad began running statewide on Friday has gone from angry to bizarre to just plain ridiculous.
Check out these amazing responses to the Graham ad from Republican leaders who call themselves good conservative Republicans:
"Lindsey should stay out of this race!"
- Lt. Governor Bob Peeler, Mark Sanford’s opponent for the Republican gubernatorial nomination
“(Graham) kicked up a firestorm!”
- Warren Tompkins, a consultant to the Graham campaign and a friend of Bob Peeler
“(Upstate Peeler supporters are) lathered up. Everyone is shocked that Lindsey (Graham) would go to the extent he did in endorsing Sanford. Many are telling me they will vote for (Graham’s Democratic challenger) Alex Sanders now."
- Rick Beltram, Chairman of the Spartanburg County GOP and a Peeler supporter
"(Peeler supporters) look at this like the McCain state co-chairman (Graham) is ganging up on the Bush chairman (Peeler). It is not in Lindsey's best interest for that issue to stay around."
- Barry Wynn, co-chairman of Graham's finance committee and former state party chairman
"Why anyone would gamble a shoo-in for the Senate on an ad that has caused so much division in the party is beyond me."
- Kirkman Finlay III, a member of Graham's finance committee
"I was told that the Congressman (Graham) would not get involved in the Governor's race. I gave him the names of activists, who I knew supported Peeler, to contact to support Graham. But, the man lied to me. It makes me wonder what else the man has lied to me about. I saw the ad. There's no way Graham is not endorsing Sanford."
- Bill McAbee, Chairman of the Republican party of Anderson County
"Not only will I not serve on Graham's campaign committee, I think there is more interest in ‘Republicans for Sanders’ around here than helping Lindsey. I can't find anyone willing to help him after the ad today."
- An anonymous former Chairman of the Republican party of Anderson County
"At this rate, you'll see 'Republicans for Sanders' formed soon!"
- Tim Brett, a Greenville public relations executive and Peeler supporter
"Lindsey's gone too far. He's got his own race. If Graham doesn't back off, then you're going to see people here heading for (Democrat Alex) Sanders.”
- Ralph Panzrino, a military retiree and GOP activist in Horry County who is supporting Peeler
"I will recommend we withhold support from Graham until we figure out what's going on. It doesn't make any sense for Lindsey to do this."
- Andy White, a Lexington homebuilder and Peeler ally
"There's righteous indignation in the Peeler camp that (Graham) would do an ad for Sanford."
- Robert Adams, Peeler campaign strategist
Unbelievable! Can you believe what is coming out of the mouths of Republican Party leaders? Where is your diehard loyalty to the Republican Party, Peeler supporters? Would you really dare to threaten to vote for a Democrat over a solid Republican for ANYTHING?
The way many of the Peeler supporters are reacting during this runoff, it makes me shudder to think what kind of administration Bob Peeler would have if he were elected Governor! When Peeler loses the runoff next week, are they going to blame it on Lindsey Graham? I predict right now that "Republicans for Sanders" will be led by the same people running the Peeler campaign! This question must be asked: Is the Peeler campaign going to form a group called “Republicans for Hodges,” too? While Peeler’s campaign and supporters have been trying to question the loyalty and conservatism of Mark Sanford, I think the same question should be asked of them.
Thankfully, however, these activists who are upset at Lindsey Graham for his alleged endorsement of Mark Sanford’s candidacy for Governor do not represent the masses of real voters. This extreme minority is trying to portray this ad by Graham as strictly political. However, what it is really about is preserving Mark Sanford's solid conservative record in the U.S. Congress. That's why Lindsey Graham got involved. The delirious reaction of the Peeler campaign and their supporters shows you how low they have sunk in desperately trying to win the GOP nomination for Governor!
Graham replies to this criticism by saying "if somebody gets mad at me for trying to decry anonymous, negative attack ads against a friend, they're backing the wrong guy. If you worry so much about yourself that you can't do what you feel is the decent thing to do, then you don't need to be in politics. Yeah, I want to win, I want to be in the Senate. It means a lot to me. But having friendship means a lot to me also. If you're not willing to stand up for a friend, what good are you to yourself or your state?" Regardless of what you think of what Lindsey Graham did, his willingness to stand up for what is right is honorable and courageous because it goes beyond politics. Period. Exclamation point!
Lindsey Graham has shown a lot of character defending these unfair attacks against his friend Mark Sanford. Peeler campaign activists are doing and saying whatever they think they have to in an attempt to get Bob Peeler the GOP nomination for Governor. They may say they aren't trying to bring up the Bush-McCain election again, but they’ll use anything to scare voters away from Mark Sanford.
Even a strong Peeler supporter agrees with what Lindsey Graham did. State Sen. John Courson denounced “scurrilous, unidentified, anonymous attack ads” that have been used against Republicans in past campaigns. Courson said in a press release that “these tactics must cease. Lindsey Graham had the courage to challenge Republicans to keep campaigns factual and to base our votes on facts rather than negative attacks. I completely agree, and I was proud of Lindsey for having the courage to speak out.” I applaud John Courson, a known and proud Peeler supporter, for being willing to stand against the negative attacks. I am sure the Peeler campaign wished he would keep his big mouth shut, though!
I will admit that the proverbial cow that the Peeler camp is having right now is fun to watch. I can’t wait to see what their next ridiculous move in the runoff campaign will be. With the Sanford campaign gaining enormous support from Republican leaders and voters across the state, the Peeler campaign is sinking fast. When you get so desperate to win in politics that you have to lie and distort your opponent's record in order to make yourself look good, then it is time to consider changing careers. If this race cannot be about promulgating the ideas for a better future for our state, then it is not going to help the people of South Carolina!
Hey Bob! Do yourself a favor and get out of this race while you still have some assemblance of dignity left! And don’t forget to take that cow with you!