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Saturday, February 20, 2016


Polls open in SC

by Tom Sullivan

Supporters from Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, and Indiana came
to upstate SC this week in support of Ted Cruz.

Marco Rubio (with Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in tow) stopped Thursday at the Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg, SC, a regular campaigning venue. Candidates get their insides lubricated with the Beacon's onion rings, washed down with iced tea sweet enough to double as pancake syrup. Glenn Beck stopped there a week ago to stump for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. But Rubio failed to draw much of a crowd. He still lags in polls behind businessman Donald Trump and Cruz. Trump avoids the mom-and-pop venues, preferring arena-style campaign events.

All three held rallies in Charleston yesterday, the site of last summer's massacre of nine black citizens at a Bible study. The New York Times editorial board believes old times there not forgotten by segregationists will help Donald Trump in today's South Carolina Republican primary:

This week, a survey released by Public Policy Polling suggests that South Carolina’s segregationist nostalgia has accrued to the benefit of Donald Trump, the race-baiting front-runner in Saturday’s primary. First, the poll found that 70 percent of likely Trump voters believe that the flag should still be flying over the state capitol. And a plurality of Mr. Trump’s supporters wish that the South had won the Civil War.

Mr. Trump’s nativist platform resonates strongly with these voters. Eighty percent support his proposal for banning Muslims from entering the country; 62 percent approve of creating a database on Muslims; 40 percent like the idea of shutting down all mosques in the country. When asked about confining Japanese-Americans to prison camps during World War II, nearly a third of Trump supporters responded that it was a good thing.

But with South Carolinians' "distressfully high tolerance for negative campaigning," Trump supporters aren't the only ones wrapping themselves in the Confederate flag:

Late this week, residents told ABC News they were receiving more than a dozen “robo-calls” a night. A recent one, released Thursday night by the pro-Cruz Super PAC Courageous Conservative Political Action Committee, bashed Trump for encouraging the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house.

“People like Donald Trump are always butting their noses into other people’s business,” a grave voice intones. “Trump talks about our flag like it’s a social disease.”

Polls are already open today as South Carolina Republicans head to the polls in their presidential primary. Official closing time is 7 p.m. EST. News sources predict a record turnout:

As of midday Thursday, about 38,000 absentee ballots had been cast in the GOP contest. That exceeds the 35,595 absentee ballots cast in 2008 — a record total that included both the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries.

The turnout record for the GOP primary was set in 2012 — at 583,000 votes. However, voters who want to cast ballots for or against GOP front-runner Donald Trump are expected to exceed that total.

Elections officials in Lexington County, a Republican bellwether, expect 20,000 more votes to be cast Saturday than during the 2012 primary.

In part, that is because there are 230,000 more voters in South Carolina than in 2012.

Steve Benen cites last-minute polls from South Carolina conducted after last Saturday's debate in Greenville. The first is from Fox News:

1. Donald Trump: 32% (down from 35% in December)
2. Ted Cruz: 19% (up from 14%)
3. Marco Rubio: 15% (up from 14%)
4. Jeb Bush: 9% (up from 5%)
4. Ben Carson: 9% (down from 15%)
6. John Kasich: 6% (up from 1%)

And while these results are roughly in line with the other available data, the results of a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll feature a surprise.

1. Donald Trump: 28% (down from 36% in January)
2. Ted Cruz: 23% (up from 20%)
3. Marco Rubio: 15% (up from 14%)
4. Jeb Bush: 13% (up from 9%)
5. Ben Carson: 9% (up from 8%)
5. John Kasich: 9% (up from 1%)

Trump’s five-point advantage in this poll is the smallest lead for the frontrunner since the fall, when Carson pulled to within single digits.

Benen added that South Carolina's modified winner-take-all primary makes the contest much different from Iowa and New Hampshire:

A total of 50 delegates are available in tomorrow’s primary: 29 go to the candidate who wins, and then three delegates are awarded for each of state’s seven congressional districts. Mathematically, it’s almost impossible to win the primary without winning a few of the districts, so it’s safe to say Saturday’s winner will end up with somewhere between 38 and 50 delegates, just from this one contest.

And that would pack a significant electoral punch: Iowa and New Hampshire combined offered the candidates about 50 delegates.

Danielle Vinson, political science professor at Furman University, cautioned that if Cruz does not do well in South Carolina against Trump, he could lose support quickly among the anti-establishment crowd.

Democrats compete later today in the Nevada caucuses.