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Politics: On the air and online, primary candidates won't be in the neighborhood

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Leading up to past presidential primary elections, Georgetown County seemed to be a regular stop on the campaign trail.

For a while before the 2008 election, it seemed John McCain was planning a visit nearly every other month and the county also welcomed Mitt Romney and John Edwards, as well as Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton who were drumming up votes for their respective spouses.

In prior cycles, George W. Bush and Steve Forbes were among visitors, but in this go-round candidates have been conspicuously absent. Anita Perry, wife of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is the closest county voters have been able to come at home to any of the long list of presidential hopefuls.

A list of candidates have made stops in Horry and Charleston counties. (Romney was in Conway just last week.) Yet they’ve all bypassed Georgetown County, though it sits right in the middle.

“We’ve reached out and asked them to stop here,” said Jim Jerow, chairman of the county Republican Party. He attributes the fact that they haven’t to changes over the last four years in how campaigns are run.

“It’s a whole different game in 2012 than we saw in 2008,” he said. “As candidates, in 2008 they were every place. I think they’ve all learned to use Facebook and Twitter and other tools to reach out to potential voters.”

Those tools allow them to reach more people while spending less time on the campaign trail, he added, and when they do make stops, it’s in larger areas.

Jerow doesn’t blame them.

“It’s a lot of wear and tear on one’s body, going to Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina or wherever they have to be in a very short period of time,” he said. “I’m disappointed they’re not here, but I understand. I think anybody should understand.”

Social networking and an increased reliance on the internet for campaigning might have something to do with why candidates haven’t been here, but Glen O’Connell, state executive committeeman for the county party, said he believes it has more to do with who is issuing the invitations – or rather not issuing them. He isn’t seeing the kind of major campaign support he has seen in previous elections.

“In years past if you had asked who in Georgetown was the McCain person or the Romney person, I could have told you,” O’Connell said. “This year, I’m not sure I can. It may be we’re not seeing them as much because we’re not inviting them.”

An invitation issued by the party might not have the same kind of pull as one from an individual who is on the ground working and recruiting donations and supporters for a campaign, he explained.

But there seem to be fewer of those people around this year.

“Even at the Republican meetings, you don’t see anybody standing up and lobbying on any particular candidate’s behalf,” O’Connell said.

With the presidential primary just over a week away, many local Republicans say they are still undecided about who they’ll vote for when the time comes.

Tom Swatzel, a political consultant who was county GOP chairman during the 2008 election, cited reports that show the GOP presidential field has raised 40 percent less in campaign contributions than in the 2008 election cycle. That could also be a big reason why candidates are skipping smaller stops, such as Georgetown County, on the campaign trail.

They’re trying to be more cost effective in their campaigns and targeting stops where they can reach more people and get more publicity.

He cited a recent article in Roll Call that noted, “GOP presidential primary contenders are thus far emerging as the big losers in an election that otherwise appears largely unaffected by the recession.”

Receipts in nearly every other category are up, the article noted. Political action committee receipts totaled more than $515 million as of the third quarter, an increase of about 30 percent over the same point in the previous presidential election, according to public records.

But 13 GOP White House candidates had collected just shy of $90 million at the end of the third quarter. In the 2008 cycle, 10 candidates collected more than $150 million by the same time.

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