Campaign Tracker

After Iowa, presidential campaigns refocus on South Carolina

KEENE, NH - FEBRUARY 02: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at a town hall style meeting for employees at C & S Wholesalers on February 2, 2016 in Keene, New Hampshire. Bush is banking on Tuesday’s New Hampshire’s primary to lift him back into contention.
KEENE, NH - FEBRUARY 02: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at a town hall style meeting for employees at C & S Wholesalers on February 2, 2016 in Keene, New Hampshire. Bush is banking on Tuesday’s New Hampshire’s primary to lift him back into contention. Getty Images

After a night that left more losers than winners, several presidential campaigns spent Tuesday sifting through the wreckage and recalibrating their road to the Carolinas.

That is, the ones that made it out of Iowa at all.

Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Martin O’Malley didn’t. Both abandoned their campaigns before the final caucus votes were tallied.

But the first presidential contest wasn’t so good for other candidates either.

With the top three Republican finishers – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, businessman Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio – combining for 75 percent of the vote, there wasn’t much left for the nine others.

I feel more certain about the Panthers than I do about Bush at this point.

N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca, co-chairman of Bush’s North Carolina campaign

Certainly not for Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who came away with just 2.8 percent of the Iowa vote. That was less than physician Ben Carson or Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

“I feel more certain about the Panthers than I do about Bush at this point,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville, a co-chair of Bush’s North Carolina campaign.

Like that handful of other Republicans, Bush is banking on Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary to lift him back into contention. That could ensure that he’d be a factor in South Carolina’s Feb. 20 GOP primary, and even North Carolina’s March 15 contest.

The former governor still has high-profile support in the Palmetto State.

“I really think that Jeb’s firewall is South Carolina, I really do,” said Dr. Eddie Floyd, a Florence physician and top fundraiser for President George W. Bush. “I’m a loyal supporter. … I’m going to stick with him until he drops out.”

But Bush is in fourth place in South Carolina behind Trump, Cruz and Rubio, according to an average of polls by Real Clear Politics. He had the support of 10 percent of GOP voters.

The only person who would do worse than Ted is Trump. If you vote for Trump as a Republican, you’re buying a ticket on the Titanic after you saw the movie. Don’t do that.

U.S. Lindsey Graham, on ‘Morning Joe’

One supporter, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, said Tuesday that either Cruz or Trump would be disasters for the party. He told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Cruz would get “creamed” if he’s the GOP nominee.

“The only person who would do worse than Ted is Trump,” said Graham, who ended his own presidential campaign in December. “If you vote for Trump as a Republican, you’re buying a ticket on the Titanic after you saw the movie. Don’t do that.”

Not necessarily, according to national polls. An average of recent polls by Real Clear Politics shows Trump trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton by 2.7 percentage points. He trails Bernie Sanders by twice that. Sanders also leads Cruz in a polling average, while Cruz narrowly leads Clinton.

Scott Huffmon, a political scientist at Winthrop University, said Iowa did take the wind out of Trump’s sails.

“We’ll see how he responds,” said Huffmon, adding that one of Trump’s central messages is that he’s a winner, in business and in polls.

“Now,” Huffmon added, “he’s no longer a winner.”

That alone changes the dynamic of the race, said Apodaca.

“I’ve always said the Republican primary doesn’t start until South Carolina,” he said. “Couple weeks ago, I think everybody thought Trump couldn’t be beat. I think last night proved that’s not true. It’s still a fluid race.”

That’s the attitude of Chris Christie supporters. The New Jersey governor finished near the bottom in Iowa with 1.8 percent of the GOP vote. That’s about where he is in the South Carolina polls.

But Christie is staking everything on New Hampshire, and that’s why South Carolina supporters say they’re confident.

South Carolina has never asked for Iowa’s guidance on picking nominees, and it’s not going to start now.

Robert Cahaly, South Carolina adviser to Gov. Chris Christie

“South Carolina has never asked for Iowa’s guidance on picking nominees,” said Christie adviser Robert Cahaly, “and it’s not going to start now.”

Meanwhile, on the other side

Though Democrat Clinton declared victory Monday night, it didn’t become official until Tuesday afternoon. In the end, she defeated Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, by two-tenths of a percent.

Now her campaign is pressing ahead to South Carolina’s Feb. 27 Democratic primary, which it sees as a firewall after an expected loss in New Hampshire.

Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to visit Columbia on Wednesday. Chelsea Clinton will be in Rock Hill on Saturday.

And in a new TV ad in the state, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder portrays Clinton as the heir to President Barack Obama. “If you want to make sure Republicans don’t take us backward, help Hillary move us forward,” Holder says in the ad.

Despite Clinton’s 30-point polling lead in the state, Sanders’ supporters say they’re confident he can do well in both Carolinas.

“We weren’t supposed to play in Iowa at all,” said Aisha Dew of Charlotte, Sanders’ North Carolina campaign coordinator. “The fact that we’re within fractions of a point really changes the game. It shows we’re here to stay.”

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