It’s less than three months now before South Carolina enters the national spotlight with its Republican presidential primary, and the state is busy preparing for its close-up.
Some of the stories are related to politics, while others hint at the state’s historic position as the backward, inbred laughingstock of the nation.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum recognizes his people when he sees them, and has spent considerable time campaigning in the Palmetto State. The pious Pennsylvanian has visited 25 times more than any other candidate, spreading his message of social conservatism, family values, and not googling him.
For all the work he’s spent focusing his efforts on the nation’s second primary, recent polls show only 1% of the state’s Republicans say they’ll vote for him.
“These polls mean nothing, absolutely nothing,” Santorum insisted Tuesday, and he may have a point. Nationwide, it appears many voters have yet to tune in to the 2012 race, with a remarkably low 54% of all Americans able to name even one GOP candidate.
Santorum’s latest visit was in Spartanburg, where local Republican officials managed to find about 80 people willing to look at and listen to him. Santorum used the opportunity to talk about his Christian faith, using the story of his disabled daughter’s close call with death to elicit the crowd’s interest.
He compared his relationship with his daughter to his own relationship with God.
“That’s the way the Father looks at me,” Santorum said. “I am completely disabled in His eyes.”
“Amen” and “that’s right” responded some in the crowd.
“He’s strong on family,” said Alexia Newman, a Santorum supporter. “Before he’s through, he’ll have reached out to every (GOP) chairman in the state. It seems that sort of thing should matter.”
You’d think. But apparently, 99% of South Carolinians have their minds on other things. Like the legality of hauling their furniture out into the front yard.
Many towns and counties in this largely rural state have banned the unsightly practice, thinking it makes the place look like it’s inhabited by hicks. Now, anti-government fervor stoked by Tea Party types has reared its head, and a backlash against the laws has those who know how writing letters to the editor.
“I wonder how many of the county council have stayed in a house with no air conditioning during July,” wrote Rock Hill’s Peggy Murdock, a representative of the pro-beatup-couches faction. “A comfortable sofa outside in the shade might be a thing to be desired.”
It was probably while sitting on a mildew-saturated divan that several other South Carolinians had their thoughts wander toward plans for criminal mischief.
In Fort Mill, an 18-year-old student at MorningStar University (a Christian school that has its roots in the old Jim and Tammy Bakker televangelism ministry) could face disciplinary action for his actions. The unnamed man spent Tuesday night roaming the campus dressed all in black and jumping from behind bushes to scare fellow students.
“Many students ran away, scared and crying,” claimed a report in the local newspaper.
Sheriff’s deputies called to the campus to investigate suspicious activity quickly located the man. He said he was just playing a joke on some of his friends by peeking in their windows, but admitted his actions were “probably inappropriate.”
Meanwhile, in nearby Rock Hill, a man was accused of threatening a woman with a gun, then cutting her hair after an argument Monday.
Kenneth Abner, 35, was charged with pointing a firearm and criminal domestic violence. A woman visiting Abner was arguing with him when he reached into a drawer and produced a semiautomatic handgun. He then grabbed her by the hair, dragged her downstairs to the kitchen, and proceeded to cut her hair.
The woman kicked and hit Abner, then ran to a neighbor’s home where she called authorities. The police report did not state whether a shampoo, a manicure or the application of blonde highlights was included in the treatment.
Neither Abner nor his victim could say if they would vote for Rick Santorum.