South Carolina Center Stage in Early 2016 Chatter
Josh Lederman; Ken Thomas, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
COLUMBIA, S.C. * Mere months after the 2012 election, South Carolina is a buzz of political activity with a slate of potential presidential candidates already looking ahead to the state's "first in the South" primary still three years away.
Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a Tea Party favorite with national aspirations, were simply the latest politicians to do the presidential campaign tease with the state, descending on it Friday to whip up the partisan faithful ahead of next week's special congressional election. It features former GOP Gov. Mark Sanford and Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert.
In this conservative state that reliably votes Republican in national and statewide general elections, partisans already are getting a hefty amount of attention. Typically, South Carolina finds itself at the center of American politics for a brief time every four years during the presidential primary season, when it usually is the third state to weigh in on who should become the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.
South Carolina's primaries have played an important role in the nominating process for both parties; the state gave Barack Obama a commanding victory in 2008 and until last year, every Republican nominee had won the state's primary since Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Years ahead of the 2016 contests, Republican and Democratic hopefuls alike already are starting to survey the landscape, court support and weigh in on local matters, with wide-open fields shaping up in both parties.
"The activists in this state are unhappy about the results of the presidential election," said Jay Ragley, a former executive director of the state Republican Party. "They're looking for someone who has a message which national Republicans can rally behind."
This week, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a potential 2016 candidate, endorsed Sanford, and the party announced that Paul would hold fundraisers for Republicans in the state on June 28. Last month, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, talked up his record and heaped criticism on South Carolina Republican Gov. …