Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump was the main draw during another day of presidential politics in the Upstate Monday, four months from South Carolina’s first-in-the-South presidential preference primary.
The New York billionaire and media mogul drew thousands of cheering supporters to the Anderson Civic Center for an hour-long rally.
Trump claimed the number who attended was nearly 8,000, and Dan Harvell, chairman of the Anderson County Republican Party, said he was certain it was the biggest political event in the county’s history.
One woman who came to see Trump, 68-year-old Teresa Harrington, a hairdresser from Taylors, said she truly believes he’s the person “to turn America around.”
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We need a positive, strong person in office, and he is willing to do that for us.
68-year-old Teresa Harrington, a hairdresser from Taylors
“We need a positive, strong person in office, and he is willing to do that for us,” Harrington said, a small American flag in her hand.
Two other Republican presidential campaigns staged events in Greenville: Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina spoke at the Poinsett Club, while Jeb Bush Jr., the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, helped open the Greenville office of his father’s campaign.
But there were 10 television cameras focused on Trump – and numerous print reporters taking notes on laptops – and just two television cameras and one print reporter at the Graham lunch, and no television cameras at the Bush campaign office.
In Anderson, Trump showed he was aware of his audience by praising the Clemson University football team early on in his remarks, prompting a spontaneous outbreak of the Clemson fight song.
He spent much of his talk reviewing polls from the around the country that show him continuing to lead the GOP presidential field, including one from South Carolina that gave him 36 percent support, double that of the second-place candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
“This is a movement,” Trump declared to cheers.
And it’s a big movement, it’s a strong movement, and we’re going to take our country back. It’s going to happen.
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump
He promised to build the world’s greatest military, save Social Security and replace the Affordable Care Act with a new healthcare program more affordable for consumers and the government.
When he told members of the audience they’d have “victories coming out of your ears” if he was elected, they responded with shouts of “Trump, Trump, Trump.”
Graham criticized Trump while talking to reporters in Greenville, and Trump returned the fire when he was in Anderson.
Graham said Trump was offensive and didn’t make sense when he said recently that former President George W. Bush had not kept America safe because the 911 terrorist attacks had happened on his watch and that Bush had “made a terrible mistake” invading Afghanistan.
Graham said Trump was making a mistake with South Carolina voters by criticizing George W. Bush because he’s “the most popular Republican in our state.”
“And when you start slamming President George W. Bush, who most people admire here, you’re making a mistake,” Graham said. “George W. Bush went on the offense after 911. He should have.”
Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop later said Graham was aware of the former president's popularity in South Carolina from his private polling during his Senate re-election campaign last year.
In Anderson, Trump said he objected to Bush invading Iraq, not Afghanistan – despite numerous media reports that he called the invasion of Afghanistan an error -- and said Graham had asked him for a contribution and then been "so nasty."
“Go back to your people in South Carolina,” Trump said, speaking of Graham. “Represent your people and do a good job.”
Among those who turned out to show support for Bush at the opening of his campaign’s Greenville office off of White Horse Road were Greenville County Councilman Lynn Ballard and Mike Fowler, chairman of the Union County Republican Party.
Fowler, who distributed Bush literature and bumper stickers at the Union County fair last week, said he likes the former Florida governor because of his experience and the “fabulous job” he did “in a purple state.”
As for Trump, Fowler said he thinks he’s “running for attention, and not for president.”
One of those who heard Graham at lunch, former Republican state Rep. Dan Cooper of Piedmont, said he hasn’t decided who will get his vote during the Feb. 20 primary, but he knows it won’t be Trump.
I like some of the things he says, but I don’t like him. I don’t trust him.
Former Republican state Rep. Dan Cooper of Piedmont
Trump captured twice as much support as his nearest rival in the latest poll of South Carolina Republicans.
The CNN/ORC International poll of 521 likely South Carolina Republican voters, which Trump mentioned in his remarks, gave Carson 18 percent. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio claimed third place, with 9 percent, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was fourth with 7 percent.
Bush placed fifth with 6 percent, while Graham was in seventh place with 5 percent.
The results, however, indicated that a reconfiguration of the GOP field in South Carolina is very possible going forward.
Sixty percent of respondents said they were still trying to decide who to support.