South Carolina behind (way behind), Florida ahead

Two days after

South Carolina behind again, Florida ahead

The Florida GOP primary next up—Jan. 31—is the newest make-or-break or Big Moment, the newest primary event characterized as shaping up to be important or crucial. Gingrich won South Carolina’s heart by acting like a ghastly creep–SC is, after all, the state of Joe “You Lie!” Wilson. Question: What face will Gingrich turn toward Florida?

Newton Leroy McPherson

Partial answer: The day after South Carolina, Sen. Lindsay Graham appeared on Face the Nation, making Gingrich sound halfway decent and humane on the topic of undocumented immigrants. Florida, we are reminded, has a large Latino population. Graham suggested that Gingrich as president would favor extending something like amnesty (although not called that) and legal status to some undocumented immigrants. Graham spoke becomingly about a hypothetical combat veteran with Hispanic name coming home from war, only to see his mother or grandmother deported.

Every little bit helps.

South Carolina polls were mostly right

Back to South Carolina—

Gingrich’s win vindicated most polls leading up to the primary, although it probably didn’t do much for all the experts who shortly before had been writing and talking about Mitt Romney as inevitable.

Rick Santorum made a cogent point on the air Sunday, by the way. Santorum reminded his host that it was not necessary, after all, for religious or social conservatives to ‘coalesce’ behind one candidate, in order for Romney to be beaten.

But on Gingrich–

As a Southerner who has consistently defended the not-David-Duke parts of the South, I would not have thought South Carolina could sink any lower. Shows me. It is scant consolation to reflect that Gingrich probably would have lost to David Duke, if Duke had been running in the primary. If only the pollsters would conduct a poll on a hypothetical match-up of Obama and Duke. It would be instructive to see how many states Duke carried.

There is still time for Duke to jump into the Republican race.

We’ve seen one of them already. Turnout in the primary was record:

 “South Carolina’s Republican voters set a new primary turnout record Saturday when more than 600,000 of them went to the polls, shattering the previous mark set in 2000.

With 13 precincts still uncounted Sunday morning, 601,166 votes already were recorded, topping 2000’s turnout of 537,101 and well ahead of 2008’s 445,499 voters. Earlier in the week, officials had projected a moderate turnout about equivalent to the 2008 primary.

And the vote totals for the individual candidates were just as intriguing. Saturday’s winner, Newt Gingrich, collected 243,153, and second-place finisher Mitt Romney won 167,280. Both of them exceeded 2008 winner John McCain’s total.

And that also means Mr. Romney did far better than his own 2008 performance here, when he won just 68,142 votes en route to a fourth-place finish.”

The 600K+ turnout exceeded even that of South Carolina’s Democratic primary in 2008, an all-time high 532,468 voters, when Barack Obama bested Hillary Clinton. Of course, many people believe that a lot of the Clinton voters there were actually Republicans looking to slow down or hurt Obama. The GOP primary in 2008, as mentioned above, involved 445,499 voters.

John McCain, who got under 200K votes in that primary, went on to get 1,034,896 votes in the general election against Obama’s 862,449–a clear gain of over 800,000 votes for McCain in ten months. McCain must have climbed mightily in many people’s estimation during that time. Maybe somebody gave the populace refresher courses on Vietnam.

Presumably South Carolina voters will turn out in equal or greater numbers to vote against the president this year.

Gingrich won across the state, losing only three counties to Romney—Beaufort, Charleston, and Richland. Of these three, only Beaufort was among highest-turnout counties. Gingrich won in 43 of 46 SC counties.

State election board results show that turnout was 20 percent to 30 percent for most counties. This is high for a primary and especially high for a place in the condition of South Carolina, with close-to-the-bottom per capita readership and number of newspapers, libraries, and bookstores.

Still, it would be distortion to call the primary a landslide, as the example of York County shows. Turnout in York was higher than in 2008, and voter registration is up by 30,000 according to the local press—but turnout in the county was still 23 percent. Nor did women give Gingrich landslide treatment, cat-fight representations notwithstanding. Gingrich won the women’s vote with a plurality of 30 percent. Thus he lost 70 percent of women voters, which strikes me as about where he would stand in a general-election match-up. Women also were only 47 percent of the primary voters. So more of them voted with their feet.

Gingrich benefited mightily from his treatment by ‘media elites’. Wonder whether there might be a grain of truth in the Gingrich accusation that ABC wanted to help Romney. (“ABC acted as an arm of the Romney campaign.”) Either way, calling ABC “liberal” is hooey. ABC,  another union-busting corporation, might want to help Romney as plausible GOP contender, but there’s nothing liberal about it if so.

South Carolina has not benefited from its treatment by educated people who should know better, who have tossed No-prestige-land away, leaving it lying on the floor of a seldom opened closet. A public discourse that ropes off any part of the polity does harm to the whole.

If Matt Kibbe’s bunch have their way, things will get even worse for SC. They’re trying to get a publicly funded ‘school choice’ act on the books. H.4576 would assist, at public expense, any parent willing to pay to put his/her children into a  for-profit school. This would mean that the depleted public schools would shoulder even more of the burden of the poorest children, from the poorest families. So much for opposing an entitlement society. Any time you have a proposal to harm the greatest number, and get the taxpayers to pay for it, you have a good chance of lining up the GOP on your side.

How do they pull off this kind of thing? Well, for one, they call a for-profit school an ‘independent school’ and they include the same taxpayer-funded gift for home schooling, to sweeten the deal. Also, as summarized by supporters, the bill would send the taxpayer money to charity—‘Non-Profit Scholarship Granting Organizations’. Those orgs would then be obligated to pay over the money for tuition, books, etc.—to a private school, if the parent ‘chooses’:

“This bill will encourage parents to have a more direct impact on their child’s education as they will have a stronger voice in deciding how their child is educated. At the same time, the parent or legal guardian will have more money to save and put towards the child’s education. One of the most important aspects of the bill is that it does not favor any independent school or form of education in particular, but rather lets the parent decide what is best for their child. The Department of Education, Department of Revenue, or any other state agency can’t regulate the operations of a not-for-profit scholarship granting organization. Same rules follow that these state agencies can’t regulate the educational program of an independent school that accepts students who receive grants from the not-for-profit scholarship granting organization, except for the school’s compliance with the requirements of the bill. This bill will encourage school competition while engaging the parent directly in their child’s education.”

The legislation is introduced by Rep. Eric Bedingfield (R-Greenville), a staunch defender of one’s right to be poor. Bedingfield also crafted legislation enabling a former state Republican Party director to become a six-figure lobbyist for the University of South Carolina. The legislation was supposed to crack down on taxpayer-funded lobbying.

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