By Hastings Wyman –
If the Time magazine cover is right, and the air is swooshing out of the Trump balloon, then a state like South Carolina, where The Donald was only 4 points ahead of Hillary Clinton – 42% to 38% – in the latest poll taken by Winthrop University should at least be competitive. Moreover, since the poll, the “Access Hollywood” tape came out and more than several women have come forward with tales of unwanted sexual contact from the Republican nominee.
The usually astute Real Clear Politics colors the Palmetto State not red, but pink. Pink is the best description – leaning to Trump, but not exactly a done deal. Republicans are appalled by the allegations against Trump, and about much else about him, but rather than deny or excuse them, they change the subject to the policy implications of the election, in particular the selection of Supreme Court nominees.
“A lot of women, particularly educated women, are horrified by what they’ve heard about his past … It’s become very personal to them,” says Charles Waring, editor and publisher of the Charleston Mercury. Nevertheless, he still believes the state will go for Trump.
A longtime Republican voter and sometime party worker was already against Trump before she heard the latest news. “We’ve got a whole lot those Tea Party people backing Trump. I think South Carolina is going for Trump. But it might go for Clinton…”
“I think the state will definitely go for Trump,” says Joyce Hearn, a longtime GOP activist and former administrative law judge. “The big thing is Supreme Court justices, a fear that Clinton would appoint super liberals to the Court.”
Trey Walker, former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, doubts the latest allegations about Trump’s behavior toward women will have a major impact, “Everything that Donald Trump has said and done has already become baked into what people know about him… It’s not a possibility” that Clinton will carry the state.
One GOPer relates hearing a woman at a Republican meeting comment, “I can stand his dicking, around but not giving up a Supreme Court justice.”
It is not just Trump’s alleged mistreatment of women that gives some Republicans pause, but they still don’t see him losing the state.
Chip Felkel, a longtime GOP consultant in the Palmetto State, tells SPR, “Everybody’s just sick of the whole thing. I’m beginning to wonder if turnout won’t be down. A lower turnout might help Trump. The people who really like Trump are going to vote for him anyway. People are voting for Trump because he’s not Hillary.” He adds, “It would be something if she won South Carolina. It would just show what a bad nominee he was.”
Richard Quinn, a seasoned Republican consultant recently associated with US Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R) presidential bid and not working for the Trump campaign, says, “Based on my study of other polls, and what’s going on in each (state legislative) district, I think South Carolina is still very safe for Trump. I don’t think it’s in play at all… The national media is saying ‘Trump is in collapse.’ Some battleground states are now very competitive, or he’s even behind… [But] I would be shocked if he didn’t win South Carolina comfortably.”
Quinn also notes the Brexit effect, where polls showed the United Kingdom would stay in the European Union but the referendum went the other way. “In South Carolina in the primary, Trump voted better than in the polls. The same effect may be taking effect” in the state now.
Democrats are more cautious than optimistic. When SPR called Boyd Brown, the Democratic National Committeeman from South Carolina, on Wednesday and asked whether Clinton could carry the state, he said, “The short answer is no.” Then on Thursday he amended his assessment. “That was before I got home and watched the news,” which featured alleged victims of Trump’s unwanted advances. “If this sort of thing drips out from now till Election Day, maybe she can carry South Carolina. There’s a lot of fall-out from all this. This Trump thing is really insane. A lot of Republicans aren’t going to vote. Democrats will turn out. And suburban women are going to turn out. Who knows?”
Waring Howe, a former Democratic National Committeeman, points out some positive factors for Clinton. “Hillary Clinton excites women voters,” a view intensified by the “Access Hollywood” tape. “Plus African-American support is 95%. They just don’t see a billionaire as one who can relate to their problems. And Trump can easily be viewed as not qualified. So a lot of independents and a lot of Republican women, thinking Trump is too great of a risk, will flock to Clinton.”
In sum, Trump remains the favorite, but there is considerable dislike of him even among GOPers. On the other hand, Democratic policies in general and Hillary Clinton in particular remain unpopular here. On balance, the state’s Republican voting history is probably too much for Clinton to overcome. But stay tuned.