The Olympics are over and the election isn’t for another two months or so. What’s a TV viewer to do?
Never fear, the political conventions are here!
In one week, the Republicans will convene in Tampa and, the week after that, the Democrats will take over Charlotte.
You know the national storylines: Obama vs. Romney. Romney’s taxes vs. “you didn’t build that.” Reforming health care insurance vs. reforming Medicare. Four more years vs. isn’t four years enough?
While more voters in South Carolina, a very red state, may watch the Republican convention in Tampa, the closeness of the Democratic convention — in Charlotte — means it could have a greater impact on South Carolina.
What should S.C. voters look for at the conventions? A guide:
When does Gov. Nikki Haley speak?
This will be the third consecutive election cycle that an S.C. Republican has addressed the GOP’s national convention. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of Seneca had a small role in 2004. But in 2008, when his close friend U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona was the Republican presidential nominee, Graham spoke at 9 on the night of McCain’s acceptance speech — a coveted spot.
But will Haley get a favorable time slot?
The first-term Republican governor endorsed this year’s Republican presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, in advance of South Carolina’s presidential primary, traveling the state, campaigning with him. But, in the end, Romney finished second to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Still, Haley has remained a loyal Romney surrogate, campaigning for him in Michigan and elsewhere. She even was mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick, before the nod went to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Haley’s political future in South Carolina remains unclear.
While she repeatedly has vowed to not accept a Cabinet position should Romney win in November, she has not committed to running for re-election in 2014. But she is fund-raising as if she will run again.
Haley also has written a memoir and gone on a national book tour, introducing herself to voters outside of South Carolina. Her speaking slot — as yet unannounced, but preferably at night, the later the better, as opposed to some afternoon — could say a lot about how national Republican leaders view her potential.
What does the governor say?
Haley’s standard stump speech for Romney goes something like this: “When I became governor, I had no idea I would have to spend most of my time fighting the federal government. Whether it is the National Labor Relations Board challenging Boeing’s right to locate in South Carolina or the Justice Department’s lawsuits against South Carolina’s laws about voter ID and immigration, I have spent too much time arguing with the Obama Administration. When Mitt Romney is president, I will spend less of my time fighting the federal government and more of my time bringing jobs to our state.”
Look to see something similar, with a few new additions:
• A mention of Haley’s husband, Michael, who will deploy to Afghanistan in January for a year as a member of the S.C. National Guard. Casting herself as a military wife would help Haley in prime time.
• Talk of sharing costs. Last week, Haley convinced a state board to raise the insurance costs paid by state employees, a move that saved the state $5.8 million. State workers are livid and have filed two lawsuits. But Haley has cast herself as a taxpayer hero, and she could repeat that in her Tampa speech.
Who wants to replace Sen. DeMint?
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of Greenville has said repeatedly that he will not run for re-election in 2016. If that’s true — and it may not be; the self-proclaimed Sen. Tea Party is waffling — who will replace him? Tampa would be a good place to start laying the groundwork.
Possible GOP candidates include:
• Tim Scott. The first-term Republican congressman from Charleston used the state’s Republican presidential primary to boost his profile by hosting a forum for every candidate. In response, every candidate dutifully told the gatherings how great Tim Scott is.
• Mick Mulvaney. The first-term Republican congressman from Indian Land made a name for himself with his “Cut, Cap and Balance” budget plan last summer to cut and balance the federal budget and cap the national debt. Mulvaney’s plan became the basis for the plan put forward by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who briefly was the leading Republican presidential contender.
• Trey Gowdy. Gowdy — and the other three S.C. congressional freshmen — refused to sign a bill put forward by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to raise the federal debt ceiling, a move cheered by many S.C. conservatives.
What’s in Tampa for S.C. Republicans?
S.C. Republicans want what they always want: to keep South Carolina’s place as the first-in-the-South presidential primary.
South Carolina’s early spot on the primary calendar is worth millions of dollars in media exposure, advertising spending and political consulting. It also is the only way South Carolina can have an impact on presidential politics.
Because the state is so solidly Republican, presidential candidates from both parties usually skip the Palmetto State during the general election. But with South Carolina’s primary so early on the calendar, candidates from both parties are forced to compete here.
South Carolina’s argument for keeping its first-in-the-South spot has been the same for 30 years: We pick presidents. No Republican ever has won the GOP presidential nomination without winning the S.C. primary.
Until this year.
This year, S.C. Republicans voted for Gingrich, who went on to lose the nomination to Romney. And, worse yet, Florida — S.C.’s chief rival for the first-in-the-South primary — turned out to be the difference-maker, voting for Romney.
Republicans won’t set the primary calendar at their convention, but S.C. Republicans will be lobbying in Tampa to keep the state’s first-in-the-South spot.
What’s in Charlotte for S.C. Democrats?
S.C. Democrats just want some love.
National Democrats are calling the Charlotte convention the “Carolinas Convention.” The idea is to incorporate North Carolina and South Carolina. (Just ask the Carolina Panthers how that worked out.)
S.C. Democrats hope to land a speaking slot for one of their party’s leading members. But they might have to settle for a speaking slot during “Carolina Fest,” the street festival in Uptown Charlotte scheduled for the Monday before the convention starts Sept. 4.
What’s in it for South Carolina’s economy?
Charlotte will benefit greatly from the Democratic Convention. But South Carolina is just 10 miles away. Surely some money is bound to make it over here, right?
Rock Hill will get about 1,100 official hotel reservations from the Democratic convention. And several S.C. companies will get some work, including Sunbelt Rentals, which is headquartered in Fort Mill despite having a Charlotte area code.
Still, USC economics professor Doug Woodward said he does not expect South Carolina to get much of an economic bounce.
If that’s true, it won’t be from a lack of effort.
The Saturday before the convention, Rock Hill will host an “Experience South Carolina” festival, hoping to attract some delegates who came to Charlotte early. During the convention, Myrtle Beach tourism officials will host a “Hospitality Central” for the 15,000 media expected in Charlotte, offering free food, an open bar and a once-a-day Myrtle Beach vacation giveaway.
Will Haley crash the Democrats’ party?
Gone are the days when the Republicans would take a vacation during the Democrats’ convention (and vice versa). In this era of 24-hour news, no one wants to waste a minute of potential exposure.
Several prominent S.C. Republicans — including U.S. Rep. Mulvaney and state Attorney General Alan Wilson — will go to Charlotte for a “Rock the Red” rally, being billed as the Republican alternative to the Democratic convention.
Will Haley make an appearance?
It makes sense.
Haley has been a willing Romney surrogate. And given the governor’s rising political profile — including her speaking slot at the Republican National Convention — and her proximity to Charlotte, why not use her?
Will Jon Stewart visit with South Carolina Democrats?
Jon Stewart — the host of Comedy Central’s faux news program “The Daily Show” — has gotten a lot of mileage out of South Carolina.
He has referred to us as “America’s Whoopee cushion” and thanked its “Appalachian-Trail-fabricating, Patagonian GORP-munching governor (and) its colorful, socialist-fearing, Urkel-quoting Sen. DeMint” for making it easy to come up with material for his show.
S.C. Democrats have loved the attention because most of it has been heaped mockingly on S.C. Republicans (with the exception of Alvin Green, DeMint’s Democratic challenger in 2008, and Robert Ford, the African-American state senator from Charleston whom the Daily Show once skewered for championing Confederate Memorial Day). S.C. Democrats have a greatest hits video of Stewart’s S.C. rants on YouTube and are asking Stewart to return the favor by speaking at the state’s delegate breakfast at the Charlotte convention.
No word on if Stewart has accepted the invitation.
How will Gloria Bromell Tinubu be received?
It is not unusual for a former state House member to run for Congress in South Carolina. It is unusual when a former member of the Georgia House runs for Congress in South Carolina.
That’s Gloria Bromell Tinubu, who shocked many when she defeated Preston Brittain in the Democratic primary for South Carolina’s new 7th District in Congress. Many people don’t know who Tinubu is — Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s only Democratic congressman, said he “doesn’t know much about her” — and she did not raise much money. But she easily won the Democratic primary.
Now comes the hard part: defeating Horry County Commission chairman Tom Rice, the Republican running in a district drawn by the GOP-controlled state Legislature.
To have any chance, Democrats and their contributors need to get behind Tinubu, and the convention would be a good place to start.
Will the president visit South Carolina?
After losing the New Hampshire’s Democratic primary in 2008, S.C. Democrats gave President Obama a landslide victory in the state’s primary, a key moment in his nomination fight.
The president has not set foot in South Carolina since.
Sure, first lady Michelle Obama and Obama super-surrogate Valerie Jarrett visited Columbia last summer. But the president has not.
That could change.
First of all, Dick Harpootlian is chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party and he has close ties to Obama. Harpootlian was one of the few guests at Obama’s fundraiser at actor George Clooney’s house in May.
Second, the Democratic convention will be in Charlotte, 10 miles from South Carolina. Surely, the president can spare a few minutes in the Palmetto State.
After all, on Friday — the day after Obama’s acceptance speech — S.C. tourism officials will be giving away peaches at the state Welcome Center in Fort Mill.
What else does a state have to do?