THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
By Jason Lesley
Over 1,300 tickets were issued for the 500-seat conference center at Pawleys Plantation for a campaign rally for Donald Trump on Friday. People who started lining up outside at noon were met with a musician and people selling Trump campaign memorabilia. That was only the start of the political extravaganza that included the candidate, Secret Service, a SWAT team and a pack of global media.
For Trump there are no sacred cows.
He called for a boycott of Apple until CEO Tim Cook agrees to crack the encryption code on a cell phone seized from ISIS-inspired couple who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.. By the way, Trump said, Çook is a liberal.
“He talks the way Americans talk when they are sitting around the dinner table,” said Rick McLane, a resident of Pawleys Plantation who attended Trump’s campaign rally. “Our political system is broken and has given way to crony capitalism.”
McLane said he recognizes Trump’s faults, but they don’t disqualify him from being president. “I wouldn’t cross the street to shake his hand,” he said, “but I’d vote for him. What we’ve got now isn’t working.”
Trump said his GOP rivals are backed by corporate executives who expect to be rewarded by the government. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has oil money, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has pharmaceutical industry backing. He said the country could save $300 billion a year by negotiating drug prices.
Trump said he would negotiate everything better. Jobs would come back from Mexico once he slapped a 35 percent tax on new Fords and Carrier air conditioners being built there. No other Republican can call for a import tariff and get applause. “They are saying I’m not a conservative,” Trump said. “I say I’m common sense.”
He promised to deliver a better military at a lower cost once he got rid of the political payouts. “We buy planes we don’t want because contractors have political connections,” he said.
Trump drew applause from the overflow audience when he said he would take care of America’s veterans. “Illegals coming into this country are treated better than our vets,” he said.
Trump’s message runs counter to the Democrats’ narrative. While police shootings of unarmed citizens have become a campaign issue, Trump said the police are right 99.9 percent of the time. He called Georgetown County Sheriff Lane Cribb his friend.
He saved some of his harshest criticism for the Republican Party itself, calling its leaders petty and jealous people with a lot of problems.” He said strategist Karl Rove and columnists George Will and Charles Krauthammer were “very bad guys.” Some in the crowd grunted when he called out Krauthammer.
Trump said Mitt Romney should have won the last election over President Obama but “Rove did some bad ads during a horrible campaign. Trump said the GOP is a failed party. He backed Romney and John McCain. “This time,” Trump said, “I’m doing it myself.”
Engine trouble forced Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to reschedule a campaign event at Pawleys Island in the morning. He was due to fly in from Columbia for an appearance at Lowcountry Prep. Minutes before the scheduled 11:45 a.m. start, the audience learned that the plane had engine trouble. He returned at 10 p.m. along with Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.
Over 500 people filled the school’s gym. “We are still a great people, we just have a messed up government,” Rubio told them.
Waccamaw Neck Republicans agree with polls that show Trump as the favorite to win South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary Saturday.
Those attending the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club Monday gave Trump 33 percent of their votes in a straw poll and first place over Rubio (28 percent) and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas (19 percent).
Trump’s margin among local voters is actually lower than polls are showing in the state. A CBS News poll shows South Carolina voters favoring Trump by 22 points over Cruz, and a poll of South Carolina House Republicans shows him with a 19-point lead over Cruz and Rubio and a 20-point lead over Jeb Bush.
The good news for candidates chasing Trump is the number of Republicans still undecided. State Rep. Stephen Goldfinch told the Waccamaw Neck group that he hasn’t settled on a candidate, but the most important factor for him is picking someone who can win in November. A number of other local Republicans stressed the importance of coming together after the primary. Televised debates have become little more than name-calling contests and failed to deliver much in the way of substantive differences in the candidates, they said. “This doesn’t work,” Randy Hollister, the county GOP chairman, said. “Hopefully, our party will learn something, and next time around not do these. It’s been nasty.”
Hollister said candidates have detailed policy positions on their websites and get into them in more detail when they have campaign events that provide time to go beyond the sound bite. Alan Ray, 7th District chairman for the Cruz campaign, said the press is intentionally keeping that information from the public.
Dennis Space of Pawleys Plantation agreed the issues are being ignored. “Until candidates stop trashing one another, we’re really not going to find out who’s a leader and who has a cogent plan about how to move forward,” he said. “It’s a much more difficult problem than just waving a magic wand.”
Nonetheless, the debates and personality clashes are generating record interest in Saturday’s primary. Waccamaw Neck Republican Club president Jerry Rovner said voter turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire has been exceptional and he expects the trend to continue in South Carolina. The state GOP predicts over 700,000 votes to be cast, exceeding the total of 604,000 in the last presidential primary.
State Rep. Mike Ryhal of District 56 in Horry County told Waccamaw Neck Republicans he is backing Trump because the country needs “somebody who’s not a politician.” Ryhal said he felt like an outsider and unwelcome in the state House because he had been a businessman. “Trump is a business guy who’s not very welcome,” he said. “He brings skills to the table.”
Ryhal said he dealt with the Environmental Protection Agency and labor unions in private business. “To say people not inside politics don’t know anything about politics, I disagree with that vehemently,” he said. “We learn outside. We bring it inside.”
He said his biggest fear is losing the right to be Christians and to serve God. “That’s how we became a great country, and I want to see that maintained,” he said.
Former County Council Member Bob Anderson said he was voting for Trump because he says he can bring jobs back from Mexico, China and Japan. “Over my lifetime,” Anderson said, “I’ve watched the demise of our economic power.” He said if Trump can brings jobs back to America there will be a middle class again. “If we can bring that back,” Anderson said, “and put all these people back to work, we’re not going to need Medicaid, we’re not going to need 60 percent of our dollars going to some entitlement programs.”
Rubio supporter Paula Hero of Heritage Plantation said she finds Trump “offensive and irascible and, to be perfectly frank, narcissistic.” She said Rubio is believable and has citizens’ best interests at heart.
Alan Walters, chairman of Rubio’s campaign in Georgetown County, said his decision was driven by what’s best for his sons. “Sen. Rubio has the strongest plans for the future,” he said. “That’s what resonates with me. He believes in American exceptionalism and can build consensus to get things done.”
Bill Reynolds, a volunteer with the Rubio campaign and retired U.S. Army veteran, said his No. 1 issue was national defense. He said he agrees with Rubio’s vision for a 21st-century military and the role South Carolina would play in it. Reynolds also praised Rubio for his efforts to reform the Veterans Administration — he has a son who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan — and his stances on abortion and gun ownership.
Rubio’s campaign got a boost on Wednesday when Gov. Nikki Haley announced her support at a Chapin rally. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has shared advice on education issues with the governor and helped her raise money for her re-election bid in 2014, also was considered a top contender to win Haley’s endorsement. But he has lagged in recent S.C. polls, falling to fifth in the six-candidate GOP field. Rubio sits third. Haley’s decision was a bit of a reversal in the past day. The governor told reporters Tuesday that she had not made up her mind on who to back in the 2016 race.
Linda Caswell said she supports Cruz. “People say he’s not electable,” she said. “I don’t think that’s true because if enough people want someone really conservative who didn’t go wishy-washy in the Senate, who will stand up for my religions rights, my gun rights he will win. It annoys me when people say he’s not electable.”
Teresa Bennani, a candidate for probate judge who attended the meeting along with her GOP primary opponent Leigh Powers Boan, said she favored former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “I’m tired of my children’s future being leveraged by people who can’t live within their means,” she said.