February 26, 2007


Battle Lines Drawn for Key S.C. Republican Primary (Jonathan Martin, February 26, 2007, Politico)

It is impossible to understand South Carolina Republican politics without knowing about these rival campaign consultants, who seem to loom over the GOP here as much as any elected officials. Both are veterans of the South Carolina political wars, having worked in the Republican vineyards for decades. Their clients include many of the top politicians in the state, most notably both U.S. senators, other statewide officeholders and a raft of legislators.

In conversations with Republican politicians and operatives here in South Carolina, it is almost imperative to preface a conversation by asking whether they are a "Quinn person" or a "Tompkins person." In a state that knows something about civil war, this modern political battle pits Republican brother versus brother.

All this would be little more than inside baseball, of scant interest to anybody outside a five-mile radius of the gracious, copper-domed capitol here, were it not for one important fact that South Carolina Republicans delight in reminding visitors: Forget about snowy Iowa and frosty New Hampshire -- no GOP presidential contender has won his party's nomination without winning the South Carolina primary. So it was in 2000 when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush bounced back from a thumping in New Hampshire at the hands of John McCain with a hard-fought victory in South Carolina over the Arizonan. The lead consultants in that bare-knuckle contest: Richard Quinn with McCain and Warren Tompkins for Bush.

Now, seven years later, there seems to be a reprisal of that now-infamous primary in the offing. McCain is back in the running and retains the services of Quinn and his team. Tompkins and his people are with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. One difference, however, is that this time around, some of the people who lined up with Tompkins and Bush in 2000 are backing the man they worked against that year rather than Romney. McCain has garnered endorsements from numerous elected officials, donors and activists who were in Bush's corner last time.

"We are not focused on the endorsement game," says Terry Sullivan, Romney's South Carolina director and Tompkins' business partner, dismissing McCain's strategy of rolling out a steady stream of Bush converts.

Given that Rudy Giuliani can't even run in the primaries in the South, the folks anointing him sound particularly Beltwayish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 26, 2007 10:29 PM

When it comes to Giuliani, oj, methinks you doth detesteth too much. I'm a Canadian and have no dog in this fight, but I know fear when I smell it, and you have the whiff of worry about you these days.

Posted by: ras at February 26, 2007 10:53 PM

Rudy would win the presidency handily and carry in GOP majorities in both houses. I'm fine with that. He just can't win GOP primaries.

Posted by: oj at February 26, 2007 10:58 PM

These "topline" consultants are usually a detriment to the candidate.

They are generally whore grifters who specialize in fake orgasms around the "mark", while manipulating the candidate to do the utmost to enrich themselves.

They should be paid by the percentage point of the winning margin, and not by the ad buys for ads written by their in-bred brother-in-law.

Posted by: Bruno at February 26, 2007 11:29 PM

"He just can't win GOP primaries"

Neither can McCain on his present course: anti-Bush, Anti-tax cut, too Kennedyesq on immigration, Beltway Insider (despite his efforts to appear to be an outsider) and as energetic as a 70 yr old according to media coverage so far.

Posted by: AWW at February 26, 2007 11:41 PM

McCain will win NH and SC and it's over at that point.

Posted by: oj at February 27, 2007 6:45 AM

On paper that sounds reasonable. Then again your "60 in '06" sounded reasonable.

It is a year until NH. McCain is as likely if not more likely to self-destruct before then, especially since he has no room for error with the GOP base. In NH, if Romney is still in, he could win NH. SC McCain has an advantage but Romney has DeMint while McCain has Graham - advantage Romney.

Posted by: AWW at February 27, 2007 7:58 AM

You're right, Orrin. McCain is far out in front everywhere and Rudy doesn't have a chance. I expect McCain's massive -13% lead in the polls to expand to an even more impressive -20% after his log deep wet kiss with Teddy Kennedy on immigration. That will play great with those conservative votes in the South. And those adoring NYT editorials on Kennedy-McCain might push the grumpy old man's lead to an even more imposing -25%.

I expect McCain to wallop Rudy by at least -10% in NH and a good -5% in SC. Along with the Arizona grouch's massive -15% win in Iowa, it's all over, just as you say.

Posted by: Casey Abell at February 27, 2007 8:16 AM

McCain has had 8 years to self-destruct and hasn't. Rudy and Mitt are the untested ones and likely to face some storms.

Posted by: oj at February 27, 2007 9:33 AM

Given that Rudy Giuliani can't even run in the primaries in the South, the folks anointing him sound particularly Beltwayish.

And Blogospherish. Don't leave out that elite group (which sometimes mistakes itself for being populist).

Posted by: kevin whited at February 27, 2007 9:33 AM

McCain will do worse in SC this time than he did in 2000. Voters don't like condescension, and right now McCain has nothing else to offer in SC.

Rudy has differences with 'the base'. But he hasn't ever lied to 'the base', he hasn't attacked 'the base', and he hasn't pretended that he can work around 'the base'. McCain has done all three.

Besides, Rudy seems to be doing a pretty good job explaining how he will energize 'the base'. If he fixes his gun problem, he will be almost home. McCain has to eat crow, which is not in his nature.

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 27, 2007 9:34 AM


McCain is the most conservative candidate and the most conservative wins SC.

Posted by: oj at February 27, 2007 9:41 AM

Bloggers just regurgitate Beltway conventional wisdom. It's a closed loop.

Posted by: oj at February 27, 2007 9:45 AM