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Politics: Undecided remains a local GOP favorite
By Jackie R. Broach
Less than a month away from South Carolina’s presidential primary, Waccamaw Neck Republicans are still weighing the merits of various candidates. But there’s one thing they seem to be almost universally in agreement on.
They would love to see a debate between Newt Gingrich and President Barack Obama.
“I think it would be a real treat to see Gingrich take Obama limb from limb in a debate, which I think he would,” said Glen O’Connell, state committeeman for the Georgetown County GOP. “Obama is a decent debater, but I think Gingrich is exceptional.”
Marla Hamby of Allston Bluffs agrees.
“I believe he can make Obama look like a fool in a debate,” she said. She’s listed as a county co-chair for Gingrich’s campaign, but she said she hasn’t made up her mind if she’ll vote for him yet.
It would certainly be interesting to watch a debate between the president and the former House speaker, said Sue Reddy of Heritage Plantation, but it’s still far too early in the race to say if that’s likely to happen, she added. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. Donald Trump could go back in.”
Howard Ward, treasurer of the county GOP, has been talking up Rick Perry. But “I’d love to see Newt debate with Obama. That would be something,” he said.
Gingrich sustained a surprising rise in the polls for more than a month. He was named in early voting polls as a front-runner in South Carolina, as well as Iowa and Florida. But criticism from rival camps has risen with Gingrich’s popularity and that has taken a toll.
“I suspect Gingrich will win in South Carolina, but I expect [Mitt] Romney will ultimately be nominated,” O’Connell said. “I think the perception would be that Gingrich is more conservative than Romney and South Carolina is certainly more conservative than the country as a whole.”
But whether Gingrich is conservative enough is one of the things holding back Hamby when it comes committing to vote for him.
“Newt has the background, the know-how and the savvy to navigate Washington,” she said. “I just have a little bit of concern he may not be as conservative as I wish he was.”
But he’s still one of three Republicans that Hamby is looking at closely.
“When Michele Bachmann first came in I was all enthusiastic,” she said. “Then a few little things made me change my mind about her.”
Hamby was at the RedState convention in Charleston where Perry announced his candidacy.
“I was very enthusiastic about him until he made a few comments having to do with illegal immigration that didn’t sit well with me,” she said. “Then I started paying closer attention to new people. Rick Santorum is really the candidate I would love to see win, I just don’t think I will get the opportunity.”
Ward still believes Perry is “by far the smartest in the race,” he said. “I’ve been amazed to watch him rise up in the polls with all the baggage he’s got. It seems like the more he has, the more people love him.”
In a debate last month, Perry went blank while announcing the three federal agencies he would target in efforts to lower the budget deficit. “Oops,” he said after trying futilely to recall the third agency.
Ward said he has been greatly impressed with what Perry has achieved as governor of Texas, but “I’m not sure which way it’s going to go.”
Reddy expects the nomination is going to come down to Gingrich and Romney, she said. But she’s having “a little bit of trouble warming up” to Romney.
“I’m just not quite sure how I feel about him.”
She liked Cain until the last woman came forward in the sex scandal that forced him from the race. Reddy doesn’t think Perry has “what it takes” and Santorum “is just too far right.”
“I really wanted Chris Christie to run,” she said.
She isn’t sure who she’s going to vote for, but she knows exactly what she’s looking for in a candidate.
“I want somebody who is a straight talker and is going to do what conservatives believe in,” she said. “I want our country to go back to the constitutional rules and that type of thing. I really worry for what Obama can accomplish if he gets in for another four years.”
O’Connell backed Romney in the last primary and said he still likes him for his business background, problem solving skills and private sector experience coupled with his public service as governor of Massachusetts.
“Given all the problems the country has right now, I think he would be good,” O’Connell said. “I wouldn’t expect him to be exciting and flashy, but I think right now what we need is just somebody who can do the bloody job.”
As the primary and decision making time draw nearer, Hamby said she will be doing her research.
“I’m glued to all of the debates and I’m going back and researching candidates’ past histories and votes, and trying to get as much information as I can,” she said. “There are good candidates running. I just want to make sure they are real Republicans and don’t have a progressive bone in their bodies.”