State Sen. Tom Davis likened Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to a dictator and called for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s defeat in a speech at Ron Paul’s pre-convention rally in Tampa.
Days later, the Beaufort Republican’s words still reverberate back home and nationwide.
The seven-minute speech Sunday drew a standing ovation from about 10,000 people in the University of South Florida Sun Dome. Davis’ remarks also were picked up by numerous media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.
In South Carolina, the speech raised questions about Davis’ political ambitions and created unease among some local Republicans.
Jerry Hallman, head of the Beaufort County Republican Party, said the tone of Davis’ speech seemed out of character; he declined to comment further about it. However, he said he’s received calls from local Republicans this week wondering about Davis’ remarks.
“I think he probably does have his eye on a higher office,” said Clemson University political science professor David Woodard. “That’s the rumor, and the fact he went to Tampa and did this shows he has his eye on higher office.”
Davis, one of 25 South Carolina delegates to the Republican National Convention, was among 10 speakers at the rally called “We are the Future.” Paul and his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., also spoke.
Davis’ speech focused mainly on the Federal Reserve, which he called a “corrupt, insidious creature.” He decried trillion-dollar deficits, U.S. monetary policy and the financial bailouts that he said chose winners and losers.
“In the last three years, the Federal Reserve has tripled our monetary base,” Davis said. “At some point in time the house of cards will fall, and the chickens will come home to roost.”
His voice rising, Davis continued, “Ben Bernanke is a traitor, a dictator — he’s rotting out our republic.”
Davis told the audience that in 2014, South Carolina “is going to elect a new U.S. senator to replace Lindsey Graham.”
In an interview Thursday, Davis stood by his Bernanke comments but said they were intended as a metaphor for the lack of checks and balances on the Federal Reserve. Davis said he chose “provocative language” to illustrate what he sees as the scope of the problem.
He called Graham a “good guy” and an “affable fellow” Thursday, but accused the two-term Republican of supporting policies many Palmetto State residents oppose.
Asked whether he had plans to run for higher office, Davis said, “not at this point.”
Woodard, the Clemson professor, said his polling suggests embracing “Ron Paul rhetoric” won’t always lead to success in statewide races.
“The Ron Paul segment of the electorate is vocal and intense, but it can’t deliver victory alone,” he said, pointing to Paul’s last-place showing in the state’s GOP presidential primary in January.
Davis and Paul, the Texas congressman and two-time presidential candidate, have supported each other politically over the past year. Davis endorsed Paul in January, and Paul has helped Davis raise money.
According to The (Columbia) State newspaper, Davis’ allegiance was so strong he tried to cast his nominating ballot for Paul instead of Republican nominee Mitt Romney. However, S.C. Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly told him he couldn’t.
“I want to cast my vote for Ron Paul,” Davis said to Connelly, the paper reported.
Connelly reminded Davis of the rules but promised to include in party records that Davis wanted to vote for Paul.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.