Huckabee Supporters Brave South Carolina Rain
Photo credit: Lauren Burke, WDCPix
COLUMBIA, SC – Rain and gloom meant the only greeting for early-bird Republican voters heading to the polls were ubiquitous lawn signs and billboards.
With weather forecasts predicting snow in parts of the Palmetto state, election watchers from cable tv pundits to the front page of The State , a prominent South Carolina paper, were speculating on whether the weather would mean low turnout. And if turnout was low, who gained and lost at the polls.
Even one presidential candidate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, had already faced questions about how the heavens might affect his candidacy when he was surrounded by reporters outside a polling station where Huckabee’s state chairman Mike Campbell and his wife voted..
"Our voters are like the post office," Huckabee joked. "Neither rain, nor sleet nor snow …"
"I just hope that our voters are going to go out and vote, because they believe this is a mission," he added.
However, Huckabee said, the excitement he’s seen over the past few days campaigning around South Carolina reminds him of the energy he felt in the lead up to the Iowa caucuses. That was the state where Huckabee’s come-from-behind win shot him squarely into the ranks of Republcian frontrunners.
The weather certainly wasn’t a deterrant to the five campaign volunteers who enthusiastically chanted "We like Mike" and waved campaign signs to passing voters during and after the Governor’s visit.
Four of the five were American University students from Washington D.C. who had impulsively driven down the night before to help with the last-minute push for their candidate.
"It’s an indication of the type of candidate Mike Huckabee is," said Nick Troiano, a freshman political science major. "[A candidate] who can really inspire people, especially the youth, to come out. His optimistic view of America sends a very powerful message."
As full of energy and excitement as the five were—especially after a personal thanks from their candidate—there were other tasks into which the campaign might rather have channeled their energy.
Adam Piper, spokesman for Huckabee’s South Carolina election campaign, pointed out that it’s that kind of grass-roots up support that has brought Huckabee’s candidacy, with its shoe-string budget, to a close contest for victory in the state that has traditionally annointed the eventual Republican nominee.
"We’ve never had the support of Wall Street or inside the Beltway," Piper said. "We’ve had the support of Main Street."
And at Huckabee’s state headquarters in Columbia—on Main Street, naturally—dozens of volunteers and campaign staff push to the completion of a voter-turnout plan that has been weeks in the making.
Volunteers, working the phones amid walls decorated with handmade and official campaign signs, methodically dialed their way through sheets of phone numbers, leaving personal, if scripted, messages for South Carolina supporters of Huckabee, urging them to brave the elements and vote.
One voluneer, who Piper said had come down from New Jersey the week before, got through to a voter who had obviously heard from the campaign before—and was happy about it.
The volunteer broke into a smile and laughed—perhaps along with the voter—about the final push of phone-banking.
"We’ve made tens of thousands of calls just this week alone," Piper said. "Weather concerns only make this more crucial, stress the importance."
Brendan McKenna is a freelance journalist reporting and blogging live from South Carolina for The Washington Independent during the Republican and Democratic primaries.