SPARTANBURG, S.C., Feb. 9, 2016 — As New Hampshire goes, so goes New Hampshire.
New Hampshire is famous for throwing temper tantrums. South Carolina elects presidents.
New Hampshire gave strong support to Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul. Amidst the chaos, South Carolina restored order. New Hampshire is where people can scream about ending the Federal Reserve and treat Alan Greenspan or Ben Bernanke as a bigger threat than al-Qaeda. South Carolina has the Citadel, where young cadets prepare to keep America safe.
Only in New Hampshire could somebody with absolutely zero chance of being president finish strongly.
Democrats overwhelmingly supported a 74-year-old socialist who calls himself “a son of Polish immigrants” to avoid mentioning his being Jewish. Bernie Sanders trounced Hillary Clinton by more than 20 points.
While some would try to lump Donald Trump into the New Hampshire story, Trump is not an anomaly or a gadfly. He can actually win other states.
The Republican New Hampshire ridiculousness is Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He is the other form of New Hampshire temper tantrum, the obsession with swooning over and promoting a moderate Republican. Kasich is the Jon Huntsman Jr. of 2016, the one Republican that the New York Times can like. He is the Republican that Democrats cannot hate. He is nice and compassionate.
The only problem with this train of thought is that it is a complete illusion. The moment Kasich were to be the GOP nominee, those same liberal media outlets gushing over him would turn into rabid dogs and bite his flesh off. John McCain and Mitt Romney found out the hard way that no Republican can be polite enough, decent enough or qualified enough. With liberal Democrats, everything in life comes down to abortion. Pro-lifers are more evil than al-Qaeda. After all, Boko Haram and ISIS cannot elect conservative judges who might overturn Roe vs. Wade. Democrats are not going to support a boring white male Republican over the first serious woman presidential nominee.
South Carolina is for Republicans who speak to Republican voters. More importantly, it is where they speak to conservative voters. It is where the adults focus on what actually matters. New Hampshire is about isolationist and socialist revolutions. South Carolina is about making sure America is not blown to kingdom come.
Among Democrats, Bernie Sanders walloped Hillary Clinton 60 percent to 39 percent. This allows Sanders to become the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question. He won New Hampshire. John Kerry served in Vietnam. Al Bundy scored four touchdowns in one game. The rest of us yawn, knowing that Sanders and his lily-white Vermont supporters think he has the slightest chance to win black South Carolina votes.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump won New Hampshire with 35 percent. John Kasich came in second with 16 percent. Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Marcio Rubio were pretty much tied for third with between 11 and 12 percent of the vote. Chris Christie garnered only 8 percent. Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Jim Gilmore are now on the verge of seeing their presidential runs treated as vanity projects, finishing with 4 percent, 2 percent and less than 1 percent respectively.
Trump has a chance in South Carolina, but those seeking to take him down will try to link his foreign policy to that of Ron Paul. Trump counters that by saying he will “bomb the hell out of ISIS.” Paul would never say that.
Cruz plays well with evangelicals. He, Rubio and Bush all have strong foreign policy credentials. Kasich wants to hug everybody.
Kasich is the epitome of a niche candidate who succeeded in a very large field. Chris Christie carpet-bombed Rubio in the debate, dragging them both down. This allowed Kasich to come across as the nice, reasonable guy everyone can like. That only goes so far.
South Carolina Republicans want red meat. They want to hear why Hillary is disqualified because she left Americans to die in Benghazi. They don’t want to come together and work with Democrats. They rightly see compromise as surrender. They want full-throated, unapologetic conservatism. They want somebody willing to raise his voice. They understand that in normal America, proudly clinging to their guns and Bibles is normal behavior.
Perception is reality, and Kasich frequently comes across as more boring than everybody except your local accountant. Kasich may be a great bean-counter, but that does not inspire anyone except those attending CPA conventions. People don’t need a preachy, moralistic politician. They have plenty of churches to tell them what is morally right.
Eleven days is a lifetime in politics. That is plenty of time for Clinton to crush Sanders and strip away his last ounce of humanity. Southerners may not like Hillary, but they like New England leftists even less. At least Hillary is married to a Southerner.
Eleven days is more than enough time, especially with Christie seeing the writing on the wall, for Kasich to get trampled by the bigger elephants. Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Jeb have the money and the networks. They can compete nationally on Super Tuesday and Junior Tuesday.
It is time to put the children to bed. The adults have 11 days to have a serious conversation about electing a commander in chief. For those who want a sober evaluation of the candidates, nothing could be finer than South Carolina.