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Salon: GOP gets 'down and dirty' in South Carolina
Published: Monday April 23, 2007
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Candidates for the Republican presidential nomination and their supporters have begun to employ increasingly negative and deceptive strategies in the early primary state of South Carolina, according to a report from

"Maybe it's the legacy of Lee Atwater," writes Salon's Michael Scherer. "Maybe it's some lingering Confederate spunkiness. It might even be all the sweet tea. But one thing is unmistakably true: Republican Party politics in South Carolina is a down and dirty affair."

While attending the Greenville County Republican Convention, held on April 21, Scherer documented one flare-up in which the Romney campaign was accused of paying delegates to cast votes for him in a straw poll. Romney himself had also been the target of attacks, with "anonymous e-mails and unsigned mailers" accusing him of being a "Mormon with a secret."

"A veteran showed up in Spartanburg with a never-before-heard-of nonprofit called the 'South Carolina Veterans Coalition,' and then accused the local county chairman, Rick Beltram, of being a Romney patsy who planned to stack the deck in the upcoming county straw poll," writes Scherer. "At the straw poll itself, Beltram's teenage daughter burst into tears after being berated by a McCain campaign staffer, who was apparently concerned she was stealing votes."

Scherer also described a ruse in which Romney supporters created a phony group called the "South Carolina Collegiate Republicans" and lured a state senator who is supporting Sen. John McCain for president to speak at the group's convention. The group later used that senator's name in a press release touting that Romney had won the convention straw poll.

"The most vicious signed attacks in South Carolina," writes Scherer, "have come from the otherwise marginal campaign of John Cox, a quirky certified public accountant from Illinois, who speaks of his lesbian sister when he discusses his opposition to gay marriage, and claims his father raped his mother when he discusses his opposition to abortion."

South Carolina was also the site of Sen. McCain's most recent gaffe, where he was videotaped singing "Bomb, Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys cover song, "Barbara Ann." The video was widely circulated by the Drudge Report as well as a blog run by an operative who works for two top-level Romney consultants.