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Politics: GOP debate energizes primary voters

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Amy Bunn’s decision to attend Monday’s Republican presidential debate in Myrtle Beach was last-minute, but she couldn’t be happier that she made it.

“All I can say is we had the best time. It was so exciting,” she said. “If I had watched it on TV, I would have been like, ‘borrr-ing!’ But watching it live, I didn’t want it to end.”

A Litchfield Plantation resident and owner of the Joggling Board, Bunn left her husband at home with the kids and enlisted a friend, Becky Fico, to go to the debate with her.

Like many of the other Waccamaw Neck residents who attended, the experience left her excited about the GOP presidential primary on Saturday. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“It’s one of those experiences I’m glad I got to be a part of,” she said. “It’s history and come November when I get to make that vote, it will be exciting to say I was in the same room as the president.”

She was amazed by how many people she knew from the Pawleys Island area and Murrells Inlet that were in the audience. At least one even made it into the spotlight: Mike Alexander of Belin United Methodist Church delivered the opening prayer.

Lee Hewitt, a Murrells Inlet resident and broker in charge at Garden City Realty, was in one of the VIP seats, right up against the stage. He and his wife, Whitney, attended as guests of Gov. Nikki Haley and sat beside her and her husband. They met Haley when she started campaigning for the state’s top office and have since gotten to know her.

It was the first time Hewitt has attended a presidential debate and was “very much a memorable experience.”

“It was very interesting sitting there and then to be able to go back and watch it again,” he said. It was hard to hear some of the comments during the live event, so he’s glad they recorded it on TV.

“There’s so much going on there that you don’t see if you’re watching it on TV,” he said. “When you’re looking at it on TV, you see the person talking, but when you’re there in person, you’ve got the camera people moving around and they’re setting up different areas. The candidates that aren’t on camera are looking at each other and pointing and different things like that. There are a lot of different dynamics going on.”

He commented on Newt Gingrich’s debate skills and the attacks made on Mitt Romney as the frontrunner, and called Ron Paul “entertaining.”

“He certainly had a different viewpoint and perspective on a lot of the issues,” Hewitt said.

He knew who he was going to vote for going in – though he declined to name names – and the debate only reinforced his decision.

Bunn “wasn’t real impressed” with her chosen candidate’s performance, but she’ll probably still give him her vote. She also declined to name her choice.

“It’s hard to down somebody because they didn’t do the best job they could have in front of all those people,” she said. “I’m hopeful, but we just need a change. I heard a lot of great points and hopefully somebody can get in there and make a difference. We were promised a lot of things and it’s just getting worse by the minute.”

In addition to the debate, there were plenty of other events leading up to the primary to get voters enthused and informed in advance of the election.

The S.C. GOP Experience in Myrtle Beach included three days of events. The S.C. Tea Party Convention was in the area and there were three visits by candidates to Georgetown County. Rick Perry was in Georgetown on Saturday and in Murrells Inlet on Tuesday. Gingrich was in Georgetown on Sunday.

Barbara Mathis of Georgetown attended the Gingrich event looking to add to information she had already collected.

“In the past, my vote usually has been Democratic,” she said. “I think that’s not the route to be going anymore.”

She left undecided.

“I want to see what they’re going to do about jobs,” said Judy Modica of Litchfield Country Club. “Somebody’s got to do something,” and that’s the factor that will decide who gets her vote, she added.

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