Facing South

South Carolina primary a test of Tea Party's strength

After Iowa's inconclusive GOP presidential primary, eyes are turning southward to the next primaries on the calendar, including the January 21 contest in South Carolina.

South Carolina primaries have a rough-and-tumble reputation. In 2000, Sen. John McCain famously suffered from a whispering campaign that claimed his wife was a drug addict and his adopted Bangladeshi daughter was a "black child" that resulted from an illicit affair.

But South Carolina won't just be a test of who's toughest; it will also be a broader referendum on the state of Tea Party politics in the South.

South Carolina was a big success story for the Tea Party: In 2010, the burgeoning movement helped sweep Gov. Nikki Haley into office, as well as four Congressional Republicans. But part of Haley's support came from moderate Republicans, including an endorsement from presidential hopeful Gov. Mitt Romney.

Now Haley is returning the favor and campaigning for Romney -- much to the chagrin of South Carolina's Tea Party faction. As Karen Martin of the Spartanburg Tea Party told NPR:

There's no Tea Partier that I talk to in the state or nationally that would want to promote Romney. Other than the people that have come out publicly and endorsed Mitt Romney and the people left over from his 2008 campaign, I do not personally know anyone that does not despise Mitt Romney and doesn't hate the idea of him being our nominee.

The question, then, is how strong is the Tea Party in South Carolina -- a deeply conservative Southern state where the movement's ideas would seem likely to resonate?

As it turns out, not that strong. As a Winthrop University poll found in December 2011:

Affection for the Tea Party in South Carolina may be on the wane. Among Republicans, 83.3% said they did not consider themselves members of the Tea Party movement -- a marked jump from the September Winthrop Poll, when 67.8% felt that way.

Remarkably, in the same poll one out of four Republicans said they weren't familiar enough with the Tea Party to have an opinion.

That's not to say the Tea Party is irrelevant: Winthrop's poll also found that 61% of Republicans "approved" of the Tea Party. As conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin argues in The Washington Post, it's also been a victim of its own success -- the Tea Party has already pushed the overall debate, and candidates like Romney, right-ward:

But while the candidates themselves aren’t Tea Partyers, the entire Republican Party has shifted to the right on fiscal matters ... Romney is undeniably running on a fiscally conservative message; It’s just that some Tea Partyers, egged on by the right-wing media, have decided that Romney’s embrace of conservative items on the Tea Party agenda is all an elaborate lie to get them to vote for Romney, who really yearns to rubber stamp the Obama agenda.

The same weekend the GOP will host a debate for presidential candidates in Myrtle Beach, the South Carolina Tea Party will be holding its state-wide convention. Nationally, conservative stalwarts are looking to South Carolina to counter the message of moderation coming from Iowa and New Hampshire. But the Tea Party may end up finding its message absorbed, marginalized, or both.

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Facing South
Facing South
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TEA PARTY STRENGTH IN SC

I believe this article is almost right on..first off the tea party got what it wanted but then it decided to get greedy and push the envelope too far, instead of incrementally winning their battles here and there to the betterment of this country and its economic woes..Then some in the TP in Washington thinks they own the entire USA and wants to control the whole thing, its either their way or the hghway. Now establishment politicians and their handlers (wall street) are pushing back publically and privately. Then there is Rommey, who can't be trusted on either end of the poitical spectrum left or right..he will do or say anything to get elected which is mostly what he wants to do so he can say I am the President of the United States and I did it my way no matter who it will hurt in the end and most voters see that. Rommney is as much a conservative as i am and i am probably more than he is in certain matters and i am a Democrat. If the tea party does not fortify thier ranks they will continue to use members and then the behind the scenes people like the Koch Brothers won't be able to hide much longer and have to come out in the open, then all of their hidden agendas will be compromised and watch the money dry up. There is not enough grassroots money to sustain the entire TP and have a major impact on both the gop and democrats and become a viable third party because the establishment republicans will not allow TP to get that much power over them and you know it..You scare them more than you scare the democrats because you can take away their political will and powerbase. Also to make some of you aware there are republican moles placed strategically amongst all of the major tea party factions and heirachy who are reporting back everything you do so that they can have an alternate plan if it does not suit them plans or modus operandi..This will all come to light and to a head in late 2012 or 2013 as soon as the grassroots TP followers find out the truth that they are being used by big business, the establishment gop and others to gain power stepping on and over their backs..STAY TUNED...

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