Will The Upstate Vote Republican?
October 29, 2002
With less than a week to go until the election of 2002 is officially in the history books, all of the Democratic and Republican candidates for all of the political races have flooded radio and television with last minute “vote for me” and attack ads attempting to sway voters in their favor.
Some of these new ads have been quite entertaining in their exaggerations.
If you believe the Democrat running for Attorney General (what is his name anyway? It really doesn’t matter!), then you shouldn’t vote for Republican Attorney General candidate Henry McMaster because he once released a criminal who ended up killing a police officer. And we’re supposed to believe that is all Henry McMaster’s fault, right? Would these Democrats running this ad want to impeach a bleeding heart liberal judge who released a criminal and the guy ends up murdering someone after his release? Not likely because it happens all the time. This is a double standard for political posturing, pure and simple. Hey, Benji, that dog won’t hunt.
And how about the gas tax attacks from the Hodges campaign? This sappy little commercial (that plays every five minutes like a broken record during the evening news) has actors who can’t even read from cue cards without sounding totally fake. This commercial is so full of deception and lies about Mark Sanford’s income tax elimination plan that it can’t possibly be taken seriously by anyone? Nobody is going to fall for the “Sanford wants to raise your gas taxes by 40%” line. I mean, come on people. We’re talking about a measly little nickel that will be completely unnoticed by the average South Carolinian! In fact, just this year gas prices have increased by almost 50 cents. Has this devastated anyone’s budget yet?!?!
Regardless of the outcome next week, Election Day 2002 will be considered a major political ideology thermometer for South Carolina and for national politics. Obviously, President George W. Bush has a vested interest in seeing South Carolina remain a bastion for conservative Republican ideas and candidates. He is going to need the voters of South Carolina when he runs for reelection in 2004. That is a big reason why he has been to the Palmetto State three times this year alone on behalf of the state Republican party and its candidates. He NEEDS them to help him accomplish his agenda in the next two years and beyond.
The key player in the future of the conservative movement in South Carolina is the Upstate. The Upstate has long been considered solid Republican territory. When Bush ran for President in 2000, his signs boldly proclaimed “This Is Bush Country.” Earlier this year, when Lt. Governor Bob Peeler ran for the GOP nomination for Governor, his signs reciprocated that message with “This Is Peeler Country.”
Oops! But Peeler didn’t win. Now what?
Therein lies the conundrum of this election. With so many new and unfamiliar faces on the Republican ticket, are Upstate voters going to be excited enough to drive to the polls next week and vote GOP? Will they turn out for Mark Sanford with the same passion and zeal they turned out for Bush in 2000? Can Lindsay Graham count on voters in the Upstate to help him fill Strom Thurmond’s seat in the U. S. Senate? Will the voters of the Upstate be willing to vote for Bauer, McMaster and Hammond, too? How about Greg Ryberg, Richard Eckstrom and Dr. Dan Hiltgen? Do the voters in the Upstate even realize how crucial they are to this election for all of these candidates?
Would the Upstate possibly vote heavily in favor of Jim Hodges, Alex Sanders and the rest of the Democratic ticket? Of course not. But if the Republicans do not have a very strong showing in Greenville, Anderson and Spartanburg County, then it is going to be a long night when election results start coming in! That is the biggest question mark in this final week before the election. Are Upstate voters inspired enough to support the Republican candidates this year?
I am encouraged by the Republican volunteers I have seen in Spartanburg County during this election. There were over 100 people who showed up this past Saturday morning for an organizational meeting to plan and prepare for election day activities. And then there was a huge crowd at The Beacon yesterday to greet Mark Sanford and Lindsay Graham on their bus tour. If nearly 300 people can cram into a room on a rainy Monday afternoon, then that is a good indication that there is enthusiasm for these Republican candidates among the people who help make the party work on a local level.
When Gov. Beasley ran for reelection in 1998, he won Spartanburg County, but only by a 2,000-vote margin. In contrast, when President Bush was running for President in 2000, he received a 24,000 vote advantage in Spartanburg County. This year, Spartanburg County has set a goal of handing Mark Sanford an 18,000 vote advantage to help offset the deficits he will face in other counties.
The Lowcountry should go to Sanford, with a strong showing in Charleston. The Midlands are where Hodges needs to pick up a lot of votes. That leaves the Upstate as the wild card. Has Sanford, Graham and the Republican team done enough to get elected on November 5th?
With hundreds of volunteers putting up yard signs, handing out literature, making telephone calls and encouraging their neighbors to vote, party activists in the Upstate will need to do everything humanly possible to ensure a Republican victory from top to bottom next Tuesday.
It is now up to the voters in the Upstate to show us which direction South Carolina is headed next!