Open Primary this Weekend
If you read some of the stories coming from some of the media, you would think that tomorrow’s primary in South Carolina is make or break for the republican candidates. While that may be true for the likes of John Kasich, Ben Carson, and even Jeb Bush, it doesn’t hold water for the others. Let’s be honest, John Kasich is not likely to do well with any southern state, and Jeb Bush says he’s staying in the race despite reports that his campaign is running out of money. And Ben Carson, though likable, has not had the support needed to sustain his campaign for much longer.
Donald Trump has had a commanding lead in South Carolina from the start. But should he lose South Carolina, does that signal something bigger is brewing? His support nationwide is still pretty solid, though recent polls suggest he has lost his lead on a national scale. However, if anyone suggests that a loss in South Carolina could spell the end for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, tell them that it’s simply not the case.
What much of the nation may not realize is that South Carolina is one of many states that employ an open primary process. This means any registered voter, independent or registered with either political party, may vote in either the republican primary tomorrow (2/20) or the democratic primary next week (2/27). What is unique about South Carolina, is that these two party primaries are held on different days, a week apart. (A complete schedule of the primaries for 2016 can be found here.)
Critics of states with open primaries are generally concerned with “crossover voting” or “party crashing”. Since South Carolina’s primary does not coincide with primaries in any other state, these concerns are more prominent and noticeable. In short, a strategic endeavor could occur in which a candidate or more likely a Super-Pac of a candidate, in one party influences their supporters to vote for a particular candidate in the other party for a variety of reasons. And since South Carolina is one of the early voting states, one of these reasons could very well include sending a signal to a candidate and their supporters, that their campaign is in trouble.
Republican candidates that would seemingly be a target of “crossover voting” would include the leaders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Though Trump would be a formidable opponent for both Hillary and Sanders, he also has the highest unfavorability rating among the republican candidates. Therefore, it’s quite possible that Cruz may pose the greatest and most immediate threat to the democratic candidates and their Super-Pacs. (Yes, I’m aware that Bernie claims to have no Super-Pac.) As a result, Marco Rubio could be the beneficiary of such crossover tactics by receiving votes, that would not have otherwise gone to Trump or Cruz, but would have gone instead to a democratic candidate.
Given the heated primary environment this year, the winner of the republican primary this weekend in South Carolina may label their victory as a mandate. Be careful not to get drawn in. Though the winner of the republican primary in South Carolina often goes on to be the nominee, that is not always the case. As winning this primary is clearly not a mandate for any one candidate, losing the primary in South Carolina is clearly not the end of the road either.
The real indicator will come on Super Tuesday, March 1st. I am asking that all of my fellow conservatives who will vote this weekend in South Carolina, and more importantly, those who will vote on March 1st, to take stock of those things that truly matter to us as conservatives. Don’t get caught up in the lies and the banter. Consider what is truly at stake: liberty; Constitutional rights, Supreme Court nominations, and religious freedom among many other things. Do not fall prey to what may or may not happen in South Carolina this weekend. Keep your eyes, ears, voices, and hearts focused on those things that really matter, and keep up the good fight.