Jeb Bush is hoping his family’s history in South Carolina, which helped elect his father and brother to the White House, will translate into a top-tier finish in the S.C. Republican primary.
That strategy got a boost Thursday with the announcement that former President George W. Bush will make his 2016 presidential campaign debut Monday for brother Jeb at the North Charleston Coliseum.
"He was the last Republican who was president,” Jeb Bush told a crowd of supporters gathered in Columbia Thursday, on the former Florida governor’s 63rd birthday. “He is the most popular Republican alive. He is my brother. He has made tough decisions as president. All of that, I think, is important for people to be reminded of."
To win the Feb. 20 primary, other GOP presidential candidates are banking on their own mix of issues, religious ties, bolstered staff and, in a least one case, star appeal.
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A look at the campaign strategy of the Republican hopefuls in the Palmetto State, listed in order of their S.C. poll standings:
Why mess with what works?
The New York billionaire is continuing to hold rallies in large venues — a Greenville convention center, a Myrtle Beach sports center, a Sumter civic center — that will accommodate thousands of supporters and gawkers. For variety, Trump is mixing in more rural rally sites, such as a Clemson livestock arena and a Walterboro farm.
Trump’s campaign says it is building a ground game in South Carolina, including RV mobile offices.
But is it necessary, when the candidate is such a large magnet for potential voters wherever he stops?
The U.S. senator from Texas will look to close the gap on Trump, like he did in Iowa — where Cruz won — by targeting evangelicals and social conservatives not sold on the former reality TV star’s religious credentials.
Cruz is attacking the front-runner’s past record of supporting liberal causes, including abortion rights. His campaign also has launched ads attacking Trump and Marco Rubio.
Cruz will show off his religious bona fides with stops at mega-churches in Rock Hill, featuring talk-show host Glenn Beck, and Beaufort, where he will offer his testimony a day after Saturday’s GOP debate in Greenville. Cruz also attended a “values summit” in Rock Hill and will be at Friday’s “Faith and Family” forum in Greenville, efforts — on back-to-back days — to appeal to evangelicals, who make up 60 percent of S.C. GOP voters.
Beat up after the New Hampshire primary, the U.S. senator from Florida hopes a home-field advantage will give him a boost in South Carolina.
Rubio’s campaign manager, Terry Sullivan, a Palmetto State veteran, has brought in reinforcements, already having added the consultant who headed John McCain’s successful 2008 S.C. campaign.
Rubio aims to nibble a little at all the GOP voting groups in the state. He has held events on the coast, where he should find voters seeking a more establishment candidate. But he also is visiting an Upstate Christian school and will attend Friday’s faith-and-family forum at Bob Jones University, co-sponsored by one of the state’s more influential religious political organizations.
The arrival of his brother, who won the S.C. primary in 2000, is part of an all-out push to succeed in a state that has been friendly to the Bush family. Radio and TV ads featuring George W. Bush have started airing in South Carolina.
The Bush campaign has more than doubled its S.C. staff as Bush — stopping at veteran’s halls, restaurants and religious events, including Friday’s faith-and-family forum — works to collect broad support in a state where he must do well.
Bush is vying with Kasich and Rubio to be the establishment’s candidate of choice, and his campaign and a pro-Bush super PAC are expected to continue their TV-ad attacks on Kasich, Rubio and GOP frontrunner Trump. Kasich also is getting barbs from Bush’s chief S.C. surrogate, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, for supporting unpopular positions on expanding Medicaid and closing military bases.
Even after his 2 percent showing in New Hampshire, the retired Maryland neurosurgeon is hanging in, having invested as much time in South Carolina as any candidate.
Carson had more individual donors than any active GOP candidate in the state last year. But he headed into 2016 with money issues. Still, his campaign has four offices and staff in the state.
Carson will attend three events sponsored by national security and faith organizations, including Friday’s faith-and-family forum. He also plans to worship at a Rock Hill mega-church and meet privately with a group of doctors in Columbia.
South Carolina has become much more important to the Ohio governor after his second-place finish in New Hampshire.
While a pro-Kasich super PAC has opened six S.C. offices since the summer, his campaign has not had a large presence in the state. Having made the fewest visits to South Carolina among the remaining GOP candidates, Kasich needs to make up for lost time.
Kasich’s S.C. schedule has a food theme with stops at a Mount Pleasant pizzeria, a Pawleys Island pancake house and barbecue joints in Mauldin and Orangeburg.
The visit to Orangeburg — not a common stop for Republicans — is part of a strategy to take home the three delegates that will be awarded to the GOP candidate who wins the 6th District, represented in Congress by South Carolina’s only Democrat in Washington.