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Politics: Local GOP in no rush to pick presidential nominee

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Herman Cain’s front and center placement at this week’s GOP presidential debate is proof of something Waccamaw Neck Republicans already know: It’s far too early in the game to count anybody out.

“You have to look back on 2008. John McCain was stuck in third place, but ultimately he won the nomination,” said Ted Quantz of DeBordieu.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have been clear frontrunners in the race and Perry, with his straight talk, seemed to be a favorite locally. But Cain, a businessman who hails from Atlanta and was once relegated to the fringe of the debate stage, joined them in the top tier after a surge that followed his straw poll win in Orlando, Fla.

Of course, this week also saw New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorse Romney, and there’s no telling what impact that might have in the three months before primary season starts.

At this point, Georgetown County Council Member Jerry Oakley said he isn’t even willing to venture a guess as to who might take the nomination.

“It’s still really early,” he said. “But it’s definitely going to be interesting to watch.”

In the meantime, Oakley and other GOP members say they’ll do their research and watch all the candidates, even if they already have their favorites picked out.

Howard Ward of Pawleys Island, county party treasurer, has been impressed with what Perry has done in Texas and said earlier this month he was leaning in that direction. Ward’s daughter lives in Dallas and has “brought a lot of things to my attention,” he said.

“Those school systems are incredible. They make the Waccamaw Neck schools look like shanties and you know how nice Waccamaw Neck schools are,” he said. Texas schools have indoor practice football fields, “every junior high and high school has at least 10 tennis courts, and they’re completely wired with cameras everywhere.”

He also talked up the road system, but said he likes aspects of Perry’s personality as well.

“One thing I like is he doesn’t mind saying what he thinks. That’s an advantage in my opinion, even if what he says isn’t popular.”

Ward said he also likes Cain and Newt Gingrich.

Candidates and the media will be throwing a lot of information at voters in the coming months.

“You just have to try and decipher it,” he said.

Mike Adams, a Pawleys Island Town Council member, said he likes Perry and Romney.

“Romney, I know a little bit more about him,” Adams said. “I did some research on him in the last campaign and I feel he did a very good job as the governor of Massachusetts. I’m kind of anxious to see how he’s going to do in the primary.”

One thing that concerns Adams about Perry, he said, is “a lack of a strong stand on immigration.”

Quantz said he, too, is still weighing his options, but the first sticker on his car for the 2008 election was a Romney sticker.

“I was disappointed to take it off,” he said. “I’m coming into this cycle with a bias toward Romney.”

He’s worried about what’s going on in the nation today and “if ever an election was absolutely critical, this is it,” he said. “Who is responsible for what happened isn’t important. It’s getting it fixed we need to worry about. I don’t know what it is that could happen to fix it other than the election.”

Glen O’Connell, executive committeeman for the county party, backed Romney in 2008 and said he favors Romney still.

“I tend to be a little more moderate than some Republicans,” he said. “I think his position philosophically tends to be a little more in line with mine.”

He’ll be surprised if Romney isn’t chosen as the nominee.

South Carolina’s Republican primary is set for Jan. 21, moved up this month from February so the state can continue its tradition of having the first primary in the South.

“I had mixed emotions about moving it that far forward,” Adams said. “I was kind of hoping we would be able to have it in February as originally planned, but when Florida went outside the box, I guess you would say, it became necessary to move ours.”

The new date leaves local Republicans with less time to investigate candidates.

“It was necessary, but it is regrettable,” Adams said.

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