S.C. Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly said its time to alter the partys slogan, We Pick Presidents after the states Republican voters defied a 32-year tradition in Januarys primary, choosing Newt Gingrich over now-presumptive nominee Mitt Romney.
Its a little asterisk in real small writing that says, Most of the time, teased Connelly during Saturdays S.C. Republican convention in Columbia.
(Since 1980, S.C. Republican primary voters have chosen the candidate who went on to be the eventual presidential nominee.)
Connellys line garnered a chuckle from the crowd of nearly 1,000 Republicans, several of whom acknowledge Romney wasnt their first choice, but say theyll back the former Massachusetts governor in the November election.
We have to. Its the only choice we have, said Harry Stille, a former state House member from Abbeville County who attended Saturdays convention. If we dont, the country goes down the tubes.
Leading up to the January primary, many of the states Republicans described Romney as too establishment and untrustworthy because of his changing positions on issues ranging from health care reform to abortion.
But they now say hes their only chance to defeat President Barack Obama whose federal health care reform has Palmetto State Republicans angry.
In South Carolina, it can be just as motivating to vote against somebody as to vote for somebody, said Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, who predicts conservative and independent voters will flock to the polls to make Obama a one-term president.
Republicans plan to help Romney in North Carolina, too. The party has pledged at least 1,000 S.C. volunteers to help Romney carry North Carolina a battleground state Obama carried in 2008 and home of this years Democratic National Convention.
Also, the party is on track to keep its first-in-the-South status in the 2016 presidential primary cycle, Connelly said. But it is still awaiting word on whether the number of delegates to this years Republican National Convention in Tampa will be cut in half.
South Carolina chose to break a national rule, moving its primary date up to Jan. 21 in reaction to Florida moving its primary to Jan. 31, threatening South Carolinas prized first-in-the-South status.
National officials have warned that South Carolina and other states that bucked the rule would be penalized with the loss of half their delegates.
Saturday, convention goers elected a full slate of delegates and alternates in hopes they will all be allowed to represent the state in the national convention in August. A decision by national officials is not expected until shortly before the convention.
Also, Cindy Costa of Charleston County and Glenn McCall of York County were re-elected as national committee woman and committee man at Saturdays convention.
We should not be punished, said Adam Piper, a delegate candidate who hopes the full slate of delegates will be allowed at the convention. The activists of this party should not be penalized because other states broke the rules, forcing us to protect our long held tradition of being first-in-the-South.
Reach Smith at (803) 771-8658.