South Carolina, the State of the GOP Race, and More

Hey everyone!

Apologies in the delay in updating you with all that has been going on, but it has been one hectic week.

Heading back to last weekend in South Carolina…. What an experience. After working for a Republican in Iowa (Cruz), and a Democrat in New Hampshire (Clinton), it was back to my friends on the right in South Carolina when I worked for Senator Rubio. After New Hampshire, I had a weird feeling in my stomach that I actually enjoyed working for Republicans on these trips more than working for Democrats. Marco’s campaign would be the most recent test of this. But before I get to that, I want to reflect on attending a Cruz rally.

After working for Ted Cruz in Iowa, I thought I knew all I could about his supporters. Boy was I wrong. Last Friday afternoon, we drove over to an airport hanger, just outside Columbia, SC, to hear Senator Ted Cruz and Phil Robertson (Duck Commander from Duck Dynasty speak). I have never felt as uncomfortable somewhere in my life. And I had just been to a Trump rally the week before in New Hampshire!

South Carolina is a very evangelical state, and it was clear that Ted Cruz was attempting to reach out to test evangelical voters, but the rhetoric I heard espoused from the Duck Commander was a new level of extreme. When Phil Robertson walked our carrying a Bible, which made my small Bible pail in comparison, I knew we were in for a show (Phil’s Bible was also much more worn than mine haha!). Phil Robinson’s speech sounded more like something, which would have been said during the sermon at Joel Osteen’s megachurch than the stage at a political rally. To begin with, Robinson gave two reasons for supporting Cruz, first, he’s a Bible man; second, he’s a Jesus man. I thought I came to the wrong event for a little while! Was Ted Cruz running to be the leader of the Southern Baptist Church, or running to be President of the United States? Continuing on Robinson told anecdotes of the good that Christianity has done in the world, and the damage that places have incurred that have not embraced Christianity, including a litany about how we made our country strong through “Bibles and Guns” and in order to strengthen it again we are going to need “Bibles and Guns”. I’ll let those remarks speak for themselves.

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On to Saturday with Senator Rubio, which was a much less uncomfortable experience. When we pulled up to Senator Rubio’s headquarters, his campaign bus was outside, so we thought we had a good chance to meet the Senator. Walking in, sure enough, the Senator was crowded by people and very willing to shake hands and take a large number of selfies. After squeezing my way to the front, I was finally able to meet Senator Rubio, and he was as nice as I expected. Senator Rubio is 44, and has still has the heart of a college student. He was the type of person who I would love to sit down and have a beer (O’Douls, of course) with, while talking about the problems of the world. I also exchanged a few words with him about his boots. I am personally a fan of Cuban Heels, and he told me there were coming back on the trail soon. In hindsight, it was pretty funny for both Marco and I (two straight men) to be joking about shoes. I also got to exchange a few pleasantries with his wife, Jeanette, who was just as friendly as he was. Despite my policy disagreements with Senator Rubio, they would make a really nice first family.

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The campaign work with Marco Rubio was also a great experience. While there is not a lot to say about phonebanking (dialing voter, most of whom do not answer the phone, for hours on end), I did have some interesting conversations, with supporters of Marco Rubio, including a student who was taking a semester away from Miami (the U!) to work for the Senator. Just like what I saw with the Cruz campaign, these supporters were not evil. They were not mean. They were just as passionate as I am, except they hold a different worldview than me.

I guess what I would say after the fact is, even though I am not considering voting Republican, it has been an eye opening experience for me to work for Republicans in two of the four early voting states. The Wake the Vote program was intended to increase democratic engagement and open our minds to views we would not tend to hold, and I believe the program has been a huge success in my mind, in that regard. If you want to read an expanded version of what I have to say about this, I have also recently published a piece about it on the Huffington Post.

I want to end by writing a little bit more about the Trump phenomenon. Trump won South Carolina in a landslide. Trump won Nevada in a landslide. After reading pundit after pundit say that Trump could not achieve success in the Republican primary, and eventually voters would wise up and select a nominee who was traditionally rooted in political conservatism, but alas, the Trump train does not show signs of slowing down. I remember Nate Silver talking about dating candidates through the fall, before marrying your candidate after the turn of the New Year. Looks like plenty of voters have decided to marry Trump. Tuesday is Super Tuesday. This could be the beginning of the end if Trump has resounding success on Super Tuesday, and by looking at the prior states’ results, there is no reason to expect his successes will go away.

Looking at it from the Democratic side… Many Democrats want to underestimate Trump in the general election. Myself included. I hear countless Democrats talking about the inelectability of Trump, and how if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, we are heading for a landslide, which would make 2008 (365-173) look close. Playing devil’s advocate here, if Trump can manage to become the Republican nominee, he has proven he has a strong enough campaign operation to defeat an incredibly strong field of GOP challengers. While I believe the Clinton campaign is stronger than the Rubio, Bush, or Cruz campaigns, Trump will have already proven himself by winning on the highest stage. He could do it again…

-SLI

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