Monday, February 18, 2013

Report from the Field: SC-1 Sanford Campaign

I drove down to Charleston SC on Friday to spend a little time with the Sanford Campaign and to look in on the Freedom Works Candidate Forum on Saturday.  The election is on the 19th of March, and if no candidate gets more than 50% in the primary, a run-off will occur on April 2.  The general election is May 7.  The district is heavily Republican, and most observers believe that the district will stay Republican irrespective of who wins the Primary.

There are 16 candidates vying for the Republican nomination.  Some novices, some with name recognition, some with State government experience.  A mixed bag of folks. 

I got to my hotel on Friday evening and decided not to venture out--it was a long drive and I was pretty tired.  Mark Sanford told me earlier in the day about a gun show in Charleston on Saturday morning, so I decided to venture out before the Candidate Forum and see what was up at the gun show.  It was, incidentally, my first ever.

Gun Show Line near Charleston SC
I was greeted by a HUGE line.  I posted the photo above on Facebook with an estimate of 80 yards long--but there were another 40 once you got through the gates.  The veteran gun show folks in line with me all testified that they'd never seen anything like it before.  There is a real sense of fear among law-abiding gun owners that the second amendment is under siege. 

Once inside, I was gobsmacked by the number and variety of weapons for sale.  Most of you know I'm not much of a gun guy, but you can't help but be a little excited by the sight of some of the goods for sale there.  Plenty of ammo for sale too, and the rising prices of both guns and ammo were a constant topic among show-goers.  Econ 101 prevails, once again.

After a quick look around--made difficult by the dense crowd--I headed back to the hotel where the candidate forum was to take place.  I made contact with both the political director of the Sanford Campaign and the Campaign manager--both of whom were really bright, young motivated guys.  It brought home for me once again the degree to which American politics depends on the labor of such people.  For anyone who knows Sanford and his legendary capacity to be tight with a buck (which extends to being tight with the taxpayer's buck--the reason I support the guy), his campaign is a high-speed low drag affair.  Just a few folks, a bunch of volunteers, and high energy. 

I sat at the Sanford table for a while, talking with voters and handing out pamphlets--folks were very nice and happy to hear that he'd decided to run.  After a while, the campaign manager informed me that Sanford wanted to talk for a while, and so I followed him to one of the "breakout" rooms where Sanford was preparing.

We had a really good conversation.  The guy's obviously been through a lot, and he doesn't back down from it.  I asked him if voters ever get really unpleasant with him--and he answered that they occasionally do.  I asked how he handled it.  "I listen, and I take my lumps".  A pretty good answer.  We talked a good bit about my work, we talked a bit about foreign and defense policy, we talked about the size of the Navy and we talked about his kids and the Kittens.  I asked a couple of tough questions about strategy and I came away with a good sense that he's moving in the right direction  About twenty minutes later, the campaign manager grabbed us because the forum was going to start.

Fuzzy picture of the candidate forum
My assessment:  this is a guy who is at peace with himself.  He's earnestly trying to promote a small-government ideology and he thinks he can win.  Most likely, he'll face Ted Turner's son "Teddy" in the primary, if polls are to be believed.  I talked to some folks there and no one thought anyone in the field could get the 50% needed to obviate a run-off. 

The race is ALL about spending.  There were a lot of Tea-Party folks in the audience, and the "fair tax" had a good bit of airplay.  The forum format was pretty bad--sixty second opening statements and then a series of questions to the candidates to which they were limited sixty seconds in reply.  But only two or three candidates got to answer the question.  Then a new question.  So Sanford got three total questions and about five total minutes of talking (between openers, closers and answers)--everyone else only got the same amount too.  I'm not sure that voters were entirely well-served, but with 16 folks it is hard to do much better.  The three weeks in between the primary and the run off should be very interesting, when the field is winnowed down to just two. 

Again--there is no question that Sanford screwed up royally.  Folks who hesitate to support him do so from very defensible positions.  My support comes from a belief that we are out of control, and that we need folks in Congress who look at the world like Mark Sanford does and who have a demonstrated record of actually reining in government.  There are some good people running in this race, but none has the record that he does in actually DOING what the people of the district want done--getting the nation's fiscal mess squared away.

If you have a few extra dollars lying around, why not contribute to Mark Sanford for Congress?

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