Retired oncologist Tripp Jones say his choice presents a dilemma in Saturday’s Republican presidential primary.
None of the six candidates left in the GOP field fits the bill for Jones, who lives near Irmo.
“We have a lot of choices, but nobody really has stood out,” the longtime Republican says. What Jones, 66, wants is “somebody who is going to take America to the next level but has common sense.”
Jones is among the nearly 12 percent of S.C. GOP voters – about 1-in-8 – who polls say are undecided as Saturday’s primary looms.
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The Republican voters can be forgiven, perhaps. At one point, the GOP field had a mind-boggling 17 candidates.
Now, however, those voters find themselves choosing among Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson of Maryland, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and billionaire businessman-reality TV star Donald Trump of New York.
The pool of undecideds among Democrats appears much smaller.
Polls put the number of undecided S.C. Democrats as low as 5.5 percent – about 1-in-18 – as their party’s Feb. 27 presidential primary ballot approaches.
But then Democrats only had five candidates to consider, two of whom remain – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Columbia College student Mary-Stuart Tinkler, 20, is among those uncertain after her initial favorite in the Democratic contest – former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley – dropped out.
“Now, I’m kind of lost,” she said.
Tinkler’s role as vice president of S.C. College Democrats might give her better insight into the contest than many voters have. But, she says, “My mind is constantly changing.”
The number of undecided voters suggested by polls aren’t enough to single-handedly overcome the leads that polls say the front-runners – Republican Trump and Democrat Clinton – have in South Carolina.
But winning support from those undecided voters still is important, says veteran Republican political consultant Walter Whetsell of Lexington. Winning those voters is vital since some last-minute slippage in support is inevitable for every candidate, he said.
For every campaign, “there’s a lot of people that are seen as ‘not a firm commitment,’ ” said Whetsell, who is unaffiliated with any presidential campaign since former Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the GOP contest.
The “fickle finger of momentum” also often shifts votes just before a ballot, Whetsell said.
Many voters “want their vote to be relevant,” rather than voting for a candidate thought likely to be unsuccessful, he said.
Because of their importance, undecided voters should expect plenty of telephone calls, mailings, social media messages and, perhaps, even personal visits from campaign volunteers in coming days.
Many of those contacts are developed by campaigns using sophisticated analyses of local trends and information gleaned from online comments, Whetsell said.
Campaigns also are calculating how to gain momentum from an unexpectedly strong second- or even third-place finish in a previous primary, he said.
Think Republican John Kasich, who captured second in last week’s GOP primary in New Hampshire, or Jeb Bush, trying to profit from a better-than-expected fourth.
Meanwhile, Irmo’s Jones is busy reading news stories, watching televised debates and going to gatherings to find his favorite. Political ads do little for him.
“I’ve got to settle on one, but I don’t have a clue yet who it will be,” he said.
Other voters plan to wait until the end.
“I’m going to let it all play out,” said Irmo Town Councilwoman Kathy Condom, who plans to vote Republican. “I’ll figure it out on the 19th (of February).”
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483
More likely S.C. Republican primary voters – than S.C. Democrats – are undecided about who they will vote for in the state’s upcoming presidential primaries, according to an average of recent S.C. polls by the Real Clear Politics website. How many are undecided? A look:
Undecided Republicans, or about 1 of every 8 S.C. GOP voters
Undecided Democrats, or about 1 of every 18 S.C. Democratic voters