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Guth: SC primary picks the winner

JANUARY 19, 2012
by William Mitchell ’13, Contributing Writer

The FYI Center on South Main Street usually provides a safe place for local teens to hang out downtown, but on Wednesday the trendy upstairs lounge was filled by a quite different crowd as Furman professor Jim Guth spoke about the upcoming South Carolina Republican Primary.

This has been a busy week for Guth, who has been interviewed by a wide range of media including CNN, National Public Radio and the Houston Chronicle. Guth has even received calls from reporters in Britain and France who were interested in the primary.

Guth, an author and longtime political science professor, was participating in the High Noon Lecture Series, a popular university-sponsored free event that connects faculty to members of the community on Wednesdays during the school year.

Guth began by highlighting some trends in South Carolina’s candidate selection.

One is that South Carolina picks winners. Since the creation of the primary in 1980 the S.C. Republican Primary has selected the candidate that would go on to win the nomination, if not the presidency itself. According to Guth, the primary also has a tendency to pick the most well-known candidate.

“It’s almost always been what we think of as the establishment Republican candidate. It’s always been the frontrunner, the one that has the broadest rapport within the establishment, whatever that may be.”

Apart from trends in candidate selection, the South Carolina Republican Primary has historically been a contentious election. Guth claimed that people who have followed the primaries over time have become opinionated about the process.

“The outside meme that reporters use is, ‘Oh boy, we moved from New Hampshire, where everyone knows what they think, to Iowa, where everyone is nice, to South Carolina, where politics is always dirty.’”

Guth also discussed a number of changes in the primary’s environment that have shaped its development.

The primaries this year are operating on a compressed schedule as states like South Carolina and Florida have pushed their dates earlier into the season. This has shortened the time between the New Hampshire and South Carolina primary, leaving less time for candidates to make their cases.

In this short window of time the large number of candidates that have survived have greatly increased their output of emails, “robo-calls” and newsletters. According to Guth, these outpourings are made possible by the newly created super PACs. The committees are capable of spending unlimited amounts of dollars supporting candidates as long as they do not coordinate directly with the candidates themselves. Guth, however, said he was skeptical of the efficacy of the condition: “Most of them seem to have various ways of coordinating with the presidential candidates.”

In predicting the results of the general election itself, Guth said, “In aggregate the situation in the economy is by far one of the best predictors, and the president’s popularity rate, which in part reflects that, is also a good predictor.”

Last updated February 10, 2016
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