Sen. Lindsey O. Graham introduced his endorsed candidate, Jeb Bush, and he issued a warning. This is sign that the presidential campaign and fever has arrived the political state of South Carolina.
“If you’re not ready to play,” he said, “don’t come to South Carolina.”
A state known for its nasty political arguments is about to host a groundbreaking one, staging an bad-mouthed celebrity billionaire against a group of senators and governors working hard to challenge him. The Republican presidential hopefuls arrived here Wednesday all ready for 10 days of battling that could bring clarity to a nomination contest that looks somehow shady.
Republican Candidates launch verbal missiles at each other
The candidates have already started launching their attacks early on Wednesday. Aboard a chartered jet en route to Spartanburg, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) slammed Bush, his one-time mentor, for not well informed in foreign policy and Trump for not sharing policy specifics. Later in the day, he talked up his opposition to Common Core education standards, an indirect dissing at Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who both are proponents.
They kept launching several attacks at each other, Bush and his aides fired Kasich for expanding Medicaid under President Obama’s health care law and for supporting military defense cuts. “He led the charge to expand Medicaid and is quite proud of that,” said Bush, a former Florida governor. “I wouldn’t be proud of that, to be honest with you.”
Bush also fired Trump, calling him a “phenomenal entertainer” who lacks the temperament to be president.
Katon Dawson, a former state GOP chairman who is yet to endorsed anyone, explained what makes the South Carolina primary unique.
“People in Iowa expect the candidate to trudge through the snow, do small meetings in diners,” he said. “In New Hampshire, they expect a candidate to come to their living room, sit on the sofa, have some coffee. In South Carolina, 700,000 people want to see how you take a punch.”
Trump presently has about a dozen campaign staffers and four offices in the state, along with three RVs that function as mobile offices in rural areas. But it is not clear whether they have the persuasive power to convince the thousands of people who pack his rallies to cast their ballots for him in a primary expected to draw exponentially more voters than the Iowa or New Hampshire contests.
Rubio, who finished fifth-place in New Hampshire, seemed to be in search of an emotional ease. The candidate who was accused of being too scripted disclosed to reporters aboard his plane for a rare 45-minute press conference.
He drew on his time as a college football corner-back to frame his outlook. “You’re gonna get beat,” Rubio said, adding: “You gotta put that play behind you because the next play is just as important.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, one of Rubio’s biggest supporter in South Carolina, said the key is to “let people meet Marco.”
“When you meet him, you love him,” Gowdy said. He recalled a recent swing through a Spartanburg restaurant: “By the end of Marco walking around the tables in the restaurant, he was far more popular than anyone he was with. To know him is to love him.”