The Republican South Carolina primary is less than 24 hours away and with 50 delegates being the prize of this race, tensions are mounting and the remaining conservative candidates are hard at work on the campaign trail.
More guns, less holiness
Since South Carolina is a state with a heavy military presence and a large percentage of evangelical Christians among Republican voters, it would seem only natural that candidates’ attention has shifted towards more emotional and spiritual events. Emotions, however, have spanned the full spectrum, ranging from heart-warming stories of personal experience to the exchange of blows between candidates, with which we have become so accustomed throughout this campaign.
One of the most unexpected occurrences of this campaign prior to the South Carolina primary must be the criticism expressed by Pope Francis with regard to Donald Trump’s radical stance on immigration. The Pope has been quoted saying that the businessman cannot be a Christian if he truly preaches the building of walls instead of bridges.
While Donald Trump’s tone upon hearing the Pope’s comments was initially one of outrage, the New York businessman has chosen to tone his rhetoric down when addressing the crowds of South Carolina, a logical strategic decision considering the large number of religious voters. Attacks upon Donald Trump also came from his fellow candidates.
Attempting to give his campaign a much needed boost, Jeb Bush tried to appeal to South Carolina voters by bringing former First Lady Barbara Bush in. She was quite critical of the Republican front-runner, contrasting him to her son’s values.
Ted Cruz seems optimistic
The approach of the South Carolina primary also means that Ted Cruz is on the offensive. His campaign, so far, has been one based extensively on Christian and Southern values. It would, therefore, be a heavy blow for the Texas senator if he would be defeated again by Donald Trump.
His attacks against the New York real-estate tycoon have been much more subtle, the senator questioning the truthfulness of Trump’s campaign slogan. With scrutiny turned towards his campaign techniques, it has been revealed that the Texas senator’s team has once again tampered with campaign material, this time in an attempt to discredit Marco Rubio.
Does Kasich still have a chance?
Ohio governor John Kasich’s strategy was one based far more on emotion, the candidate recalling heart-warming stories told to him by voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina; and hugging teary supporters at his rallies. However, with the South Carolina primary being so close, it may be that Kasich’s message about paying more attention to other people may not be enough to give his campaign the much-needed boost.
According to The Washington Post, two thirds of the voters participating in the 2012 South Carolina primary were either evangelical or born-again Christians. It should, therefore, not surprise anyone that the campaign has taken such a religious tone.
One can still ask how close are candidates to the Christian values which they are preaching with such fervor these days. Looking back on the campaign so far and judging by the extremely aggressive tone and blows traded by the candidates, it may seem that this has just been a show orchestrated specifically for the South Carolina primary.