Sit at the front table and you, too, might become part of 2016 presidential campaign lore.
Just ask Mary Margaret Bannister, who will be known from now on as Donald Trump’s hair lie-detector.
The Republican presidential front-runner started his Greenville speech Thursday with a bitter denial of an accusation in The New York Times that he wore a toupee. “It's my hair. I swear.”
Trump wanted an inspector. He made eye contact with Mary Margaret Bannister, seated at a front-row table with her husband, S.C. House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, a Greenville Republican.
“My feeling at first was, ‘He’s not looking at me,’ ” the 42-year-old mother of four said. “But he said, ‘Come up, come up.’
“It was surreal. I said to myself, ‘Get yourself together and do this.’ ”
Once on the stage, Trump asked her not to muss up his mane.
Bannister reached out and brushed the famous head of strawberry-colored hair.
“It was an odd request,” she acknowledged.
Her assessment: She saw hair roots to his scalp. And Trump uses hairspray on top and gel on the side. (Trump’s hair is so long on the top it could fall into his face without some product, she added.) “I believe he colors his hair for sure,” Bannister said.
She stepped to the microphone with Trump’s encouragement to declare The Donald’s hair to be real. “Yes, I believe it is,” Bannister told the world.
Bannister was on the front page of the New York Post, and her name appeared in stories worldwide.
“I’ve never made the news in Perth, Australia,” said Bruce Bannister, who has spent a decade in the state Legislature.
However, Trump’s hair tester might not vote for him.
Like her husband, Mary Margaret Bannister said she has not picked a favorite for president. She said she “just wanted to learn more about Trump.”
Looks like she did – down to the roots.
Who’s up and down in S.C. polls
As Trump solidifies his early lead in GOP presidential polls, who’s rising and falling in South Carolina?
A poll released by Monmouth University last week provided some insight as the 2016 Republican race heads toward the traditional Labor Day start of the campaign season.
▪ Carly Fiorina: The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive was not on the radar until her debate performance this month. Now, she’s tied for fourth in South Carolina with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, according to last week’s Monmouth poll.
Hanging near the top
▪ Ben Carson: The retired neurosurgeon has been S.C. voters’ second or third choice since Memorial Day, earning double-digit results in the last five polls, according to tallies from Real Clear Politics.
▪ Jeb Bush: The former Florida governor is another consistent top-three choice in the state, but there’s a warning sign. As Trump has surged, Bush received less than 10 percent support for the first time in the Monmouth poll.
▪ Scott Walker: The Wisconsin governor, a top-three choice heading into August, tumbled to seventh in the latest S.C. poll, mimicking his national decline.
▪ Lindsey Graham: The U.S. senator from Seneca is no longer enjoying the home-state advantage that landed him among the top three in S.C. polls throughout the spring. He was tied for seventh at 4 percent in the Monmouth poll.
▪ Mike Huckabee: The former Arkansas governor was in the double digits at the start of the year but found himself in the bottom half of the Monmouth poll at 3 percent.
▪ Chris Christie and Rand Paul: The pair have seen their S.C. numbers drop into also-ran territory as more candidates entered the field since the spring. The bigger surprise might be Paul, a U.S. senator from Kentucky, who was expected to draw more backing from libertarian leaners in the state. Christie, the New Jersey governor, has struggled to find consistent support here.
2016 in SC
Where the presidential candidates will be in South Carolina this week:
Huckabee: He has three stops in Beaufort County on Tuesday: a breakfast at Golden Corral on Robert Smalls Parkway; lunch at Aunt Chiladas; and a speech in Sun City Hilton Head. He attends a Conservative Leadership Project forum, hosted by S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Winthrop University.
Rick Santorum: The former Republican U.S. senator from Pennsylvania postponed a town hall meeting with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, originally scheduled for Wednesday in Newberry. Santorum’s campaign cited scheduling conflicts. However, a source with knowledge of the event said only nine people submitted RSVPs. The Scott camp said RSVPs are not a “make-or-break factor” in holding the town halls. Santorum has two other S.C. events Wednesday speaking at Spartanburg Methodist College at 4 p.m. and visiting Sharpshooters Indoor Range in Greenville at 5:30 p.m.