Voters overrule Toomey’s Supreme Court objection

PTR-Toomey-051615BY TOM FONTAINE  tfontaine@tribweb.com

Voters are overruling Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s objection to filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court this year, polls released Monday showed.

A poll by left-leaning Public Policy Polling showed 57 percent of Pennsylvanians thought the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s Feb. 13 death should be filled this year, while 40 percent thought it should be left open until the next president takes office.

“This is a phony poll by a Democratic outfit for a far-left advocacy group,” Toomey campaign spokesman Steve Kelly said of Public Policy Polling’s survey, done for the progressive Americans United for Change, a group that says its purpose is to “challenge the far-right conservative voices and ideas.”

However, the Pennsylvania poll results track with a separate, national poll conducted by Pew Research Center in which 56 percent of Americans said the Senate should hold hearings and vote on Obama’s nominee, while 38 percent said the next president should pick a nominee.

Kelly didn’t comment directly on the Pew poll. Other recent surveys, including ones by the Wall Street Journal and CBS News, showed just a 1 percentage point opinion gap on whether the Senate should vote this year on the Supreme Court vacancy.

“Ask Pennsylvanians if it’s reasonable to let the people have a say over the future direction of the Supreme Court, and they say it is,” Kelly said.

Toomey argued last week that Obama “should put off a decision on (Scalia’s) replacement until the newly elected president can make his or her choice … it makes sense to give the American people a more direct say in this critical decision.”

If Obama chooses not to wait, Toomey said, “his nominee will be rejected by the Senate.”

Public Policy Polling said 76 percent of respondents thought the Senate should wait to see who Obama nominates before deciding whether or not to confirm the person.

Public Policy Polling surveyed 859 Pennsylvania voters, and its poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. Pew surveyed 1,002 American adults, and its poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

First posted Monday, Feb. 22, 2016

Nearly 60,000 new PA voters registered online since August

BY MELISSA DANIELS  mdaniels@tribweb.com

New digital tools are helping purple-state Pennsylvania grow its electorate before the 2016 primary.

Secretary of State Pedro Cortes announced that the state’s online voter registration portal has served 97,800 Pennsylvanians since it launched on Aug, 27, including 60 percent who registered for the first time.

But how many of those users would’ve registered anyway? The state doesn’t say.

The remaining 40 percent of online applications dealt with altering voter information, such as name, address or party affiliation.

First-time voters who want to participate in the state’s April 26 primary must register by March 28, which is also the deadline for updating records.

Cortes said the tool will help the state have the most accurate voter rolls possible during an election year.

State data show 8.1 million voters are registered statewide, including 3.9 million Democrats and 3 million Republicans. Another 687,000 or so voters don’t have an affiliation, and more than 437,000 are affiliated with another party.

In Allegheny County, Mark Wolosik, division manager at the Board of Elections, said they’ve received 6,546 completed applications with signatures, including 4,073 new voters. Another 1,604 online applications were submitted but did not have corresponding signatures, necessary for processing.

Wolosik said he can’t estimate whether the new voters would or would not have registered without the online system, or if the new digital application is causing any cost-savings. But he did speak in favor of the accuracy of the system, with the voter supplying their own information to cut down on any handwriting-related issues in processing paper forms.

“It’s been verified by the voter before it gets submitted to us,” he said.

Rubio rebounding in South Carolina

Children play in the front row as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks at a campaign event in Spartanburg, South Carolina, February 10, 2016. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)
Children play in the front row as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks at a campaign event in Spartanburg, South Carolina, February 10, 2016. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

BY SALENA ZITO   szito@tribweb.com

This is one in a series of blog posts from the road as Tribune-Review national politics reporter Salena Zito and photographer Stephanie Strasburg travel around South Carolina talking to voters in advance of the primary elections there.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Mark down South Carolina as the state where Marco Rubio got his groove back.

“The most important thing that Marco has done is be himself,” said Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, colleague and supporter of the Florida senators’ bid for the Republican nomination.

Rubio was riding high after his surprise third place showing in Iowa – until he automatically repeated himself a number of times in crossfire with Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and subsequently plunged in the Granite State.

No one expected him to recover.

But between his determination to redeem himself and the vicious back and forth between Donald Trump and Sen Ted Cruz of Texas as they trade insults over who is the more trustworthy, Rubio can surface without a scratch.

Scott said what Rubio learned from that poor debate performance and the subsequent results in New Hampshire is to relax and just be himself: “We have seen in town hall, after town hall, after town hall his quick wit, his amazing knowledge of foreign policy, his passion for people, his ability to inspire and encouraging a new generation of voters using conservative principles is working,” he said.

“The governor coming out and supporting him is not only indicative of ‘Marco-mentum’ continuing, it is actually increasing because the people of our state are having a chance – some for the first time – to hear him without all of the noise behind,” Scott said.

Standing yesterday with Gov. Nikki Haley, 44, and Scott, 50, both minorities who hold the most powerful elected offices in the state, Rubio cast himself  as not only a man who had learned from his mistakes, but as the candidate of the future.

Haley and Scott’s endorsements both were highly coveted by most of the GOP candidates.

Rubio’s success was stark contrast to the night he placed fifth in New Hampshire, when many pundits predicted he had personally robbed himself of the party’s nomination by failing to step out of his rigid routine talking points.

“It is hard to win if you never lose,” said Scott. “If you never have a setback, and if you never take responsibility for your own setbacks, then I am not sure you can achieve the highest prize or greatest accomplishments.”

Scott says the loss taught Rubio how to be a better candidate.

The greatest opportunities seem to be preceded by major obstacles said Scott. “Marco owns his obstacle, and I believe that it has led him to an authentic engagement with South Carolinians who have a fresh perspective and who have a better understanding of his passion to win.”

After several rallies, Scott said: “We have caught fire here.”

A good showing in South Carolina and beating expectations is just the narrative that Rubio’s candidacy needs – even if he finishes in third behind Trump and Cruz, said Bruce Haynes, a Washington-based Republican strategist and native of Florence, South Carolina.

“A lot of people love a comeback story, and Marco unplugged is resonating,” said Haynes. “He created at test in New Hampshire, and he is passing the test.”

Haynes said Rubio is reflecting a quiet strength that is in contrast to the bombast above him in the polls. “That is a nice place for a lot of voters,” he said.

Haynes praised Rubio’s work ethic and organization in the state, barnstorming with Haley and Scott throughout the state: “He is doing what he needs to be successful.”

“Part of his success is that voters have given Jeb Bush every chance, and he has let them down,” said Haynes. “People are moving towards Rubio.” They are looking at the field, and thinking Donald Trump is argumentative, in contrast with their more personal style of politics, Haynes said. “Rubio stands as a terrific contrast.”

That said, Haynes warns not to underestimate Cruz, who he said “keeps plodding along like the little engine that could – it wouldn’t stun me if he over performs.”

Scott said Rubio’s rebirth has a lot to do with his free styling with “town hall” crowds in South Carolina; he is smiling, connecting and confident. The events quickly shifted to rallies when attendance grew to thousands.

Rubio needs to convert South Carolina’s biggest voting bloc – the undecided – to his side. Nearly one-third of the voters who made up their minds at the last minute in Iowa went for Rubio.

Rubio is a stark contrast to the juvenile behavior of the front runners on the debate stage last week said Scott. “Something amazing is happening here in South Carolina. It will be remarkable for Marco to outperform all of the polls.”

Toomey clear on Scalia successor: GOP Senators don’t care about qualifications alone

PTR-Toomey-051615BY TOM FONTAINE  tfontaine@tribweb.com

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, doesn’t want to mislead people.

When it comes to filling a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, politics trumps qualifications.

On Thursday, Toomey doubled down on earlier statements that the Republican-controlled Senate would shoot down any Supreme Court nomination President Obama makes during his final year in the White House.

“Toomey told The Associated Press on Thursday that confirmation hearings might mislead people into thinking senators are strictly weighing a nominee’s qualifications.”

According to the Associated Press, Toomey “says he and other Republicans are also weighing how a nominee from the Democratic president would change the court’s balance in his favor before a new president takes office.”

Toomey, who is up for re-election, on Monday cited non-existent precedent to support his claim the nomination should be left up to the next president, who won’t take office for another 11 months.

Toomey spokeswoman Melissa Ferdinand said Thursday that “there are not one, but two, issues at work” in replacing conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday.

“One is the normal standard: Is this nominee well qualified? The other is the standard that we face with a vacancy just nine months before we (elect) a new president: Is this nominee someone who would move the court from its current balanced position to one that is imbalanced for a generation,” Ferdinand said. “Given President Obama’s track record, Sen. Toomey believes it is very unlikely the nominee will meet that test.”

Obama has said he intends to announce a nominee after the Senate returns from break next week. Several people mentioned as potential candidates were previously confirmed by the Senate for seats on lower federal courts, including D.C. Circuit Judge Sri Srinivasan, whom senators confirmed less than two years ago on a 97-0 vote.

Former congressman Joe Sestak, one of three Democrats vying to challenge Toomey in November, pounced on the senator’s position:

“Pat Toomey could not be more wrong. Weighing a nominee’s qualifications is precisely what hearings are meant for, not at all the partisan political weighing of whether the nominee is from a president of a particular party,” Sestak said in a statement.

It is time for Pat Toomey to fulfill his duty to the people of Pennsylvania and vow to quickly consider a new Supreme Court Justice rather than marching lockstep with partisan obstructionists in Washington, D.C.,” Sestak said.

Sabrina Singh, spokeswoman for fellow Democratic candidate Katie McGinty, called Toomey’s position “stunning.”

“He boldly admits that this is a political calculation by Senate Republicans and that their ultimate goal is to appoint a justice that aligns with their radical ideology,” Singh said.

In an interview with a Phoenix television news station, former conservative Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, said: “I don’t agree (with waiting for the next president to nominate a justice). I think we need somebody there now to do the job, and let’s get on with it.”

A CBS News poll released Thursday showed 47 percent of Americans want to see Obama nominate the next justice, while 46 percent want the next president to do so. The results, not surprisingly, showed a vast partisan divide, with 82 percent of Republicans in favor of waiting until the next president takes office and 77 percent of Democrats in favor of Obama making the nomination.

 

Undecided 2nd Amendment Republican weighing Trump’s temper against Carson’s chances

BY SALENA ZITO  szito@tribweb.com

This is one in a series of blog posts from the road as Tribune-Review national politics reporter Salena Zito and photographer Stephanie Strasburg travel around South Carolina talking to voters in advance of the primary elections there.

HEMINGWAY, S.C. – Charlie DeMaggio, owner of Hemingway Pawn, says protecting 2nd amendment rights, even if it includes adjustments on background checks, is his top priority in picking a nominee for president.

The 48-year-old small business owner from Florence, 40 miles North of here, said if we’d just enforce the gun laws in place, we could keep the unstable from purchasing a gun.

DeMaggio said he’s still undecided. His first choice for president would be retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; however, he fears Carson does not stand a chance. He might turn to Donald Trump, but he’s concerned about the businessman’s temperament.

WatsonDelorenzeo Watson, 28, stood behind the counter, checking out every angle of a new rifle that had just come into the store.

He and his boss went back and forth over who they would vote for in Saturday’s primary. Charlie egged Delorenzeo on, but the younger man refused to give away the secret.

“One thing I will tell you for certain: I won’t be voting for no Democrat,” Delorenzeo said.

“People assume things because of race. Well, if they are going to assume anything they should consider who would want liberty more than anyone else,” he said.

The Hemingway native said he was looking forward to casting his vote on Saturday for a Republican: “My choice though, is between me and God,” he said.

‘Bernie Sanders is my man’ – Hillary has no lock on South Carolina black votes

BY SALENA ZITO  szito@tribweb.com

This is one in a series of blog posts from the road as Tribune-Review national politics reporter Salena Zito and photographer Stephanie Strasburg travel around South Carolina talking to voters in advance of the primary elections there.

KINGSTREE, S.C. – James McLaughlin was sitting in a chair in front of a pick-up emblazoned with “Bernie Sanders for President” and “James Clyburn” bumper stickers.

The 60-year-old Vietnam vet said he is spending every day until the election to make sure Sanders wins the South Carolina Democratic primary.

One of his volunteers, Janice Cooper, sat in the open truck bed, waving to passers-by driving along U.S. Rt. 52

McLaughlin has no time for Hillary Clinton. “I really hate that she thinks that she commands the black vote,” he said.

‘Kingstree doesn’t have anything to offer young people’ – Bernie Sanders support in South Carolina

BY SALENA ZITO  szito@tribweb.com

This is one in a series of blog posts from the road as Tribune-Review national politics reporter Salena Zito and photographer Stephanie Strasburg travel around South Carolina talking to voters in advance of the primary elections there.

KINGSTREE, S.C. – Janet McKnight, 53, sat in the dining room of Brown’s Bar-B-Que on Old Route 52, just North of Kingstree, South Carolina, Tuesday afternoon.

She kindly agreed to be interviewed about the upcoming primary elections.

McKnight had spent the morning at dialysis. She spoke about the feeling of “being stuck” because of poverty – not just economically, but also spiritually and emotionally.

She loves the joy that surrounds Bernie Sanders.

Hillary Clinton will not get her vote, she said.

Kasich makes strong play for traditional voters disaffected with Jeb Bush

Kasich01BY SALENA ZITO  szito@tribweb.com

This is one in a series of blog posts from the road as Tribune-Review national politics reporter Salena Zito and photographer Stephanie Strasburg travel around South Carolina talking to voters in advance of the primary elections there.

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. – Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday announced a slate of foreign policy and security advisers that seems a clear attempt to win over traditional Republican voters who remain lukewarm to Jeb Bush or who are actively seeking an alternative.

Kasich’s list includes such stolid Republican political names as John Sununu of New Hampshire, Trent Lott of Mississippi and Bob Walker of Pennsylvania. It also includes heavyweights like Richard Allen, National Security Adviser to Ronald Reagan, and Alvin Krongard, who ran day-to-day operations at the CIA under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004.

The list is long, and it helps solidify for Kasich the credentials that will attract traditional conservatives and military people in this state that’s home to The Citadel.

The most recent polls in South Carolina show that Kasich has gone from 2 percent last Tuesday to 12 percent, within striking distance of Bush.

That’s what a surge sounds like.

Now Kasich is sealing the deal with undecided voters who have lost faith in Bush.

UPDATE: Tuesday afternoon, the Kasich campaign announced that Trent Duffy, who served in the West Wing under George W. Bush as both White House Deputy Press Secretary and Communications Director for the White House Office of Management and Budget, had also joined the campaign.

There are a lot of voters here casting about for someone else with the leadership qualities that were promised by Bush but that he’s been unable to deliver. Bush appeared to gain little ground Monday night when his brother appeared for the first time to stump for him explicitly.

There’s a surprising number of Kasich supporters here who were once for Bush.

The Kasich camp has sensed this shift and have doubled down to emphasize his experience with foreign policy, to attract the military voter, and to fill the void left by a faltering campaign.

Kasich’s list of advisors:

Richard V. Allen

Former National Security Advisor to President Reagan; Foreign Policy Advisor to Richard Nixon; Deputy Director, Council on International Economic Policy; Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

Alvin “Buzzy” Krongard

Former Executive Director, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Chairman and CEO, Alex. Brown & Sons

William Schneider, Jr.

Former Under Secretary of State; Former Chairman, Defense Science Board; Deputy Director, Office of Management and Budget, Defense

Charles King Mallory, IV

National Security Policy Coordinator; Former Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Department of State; CEO, The Aspen Institute Germany

The Hon. Trent Lott

Former Senator, MS, Majority Leader

The Hon. Gordon J. Humphrey

Former Senator, NH,; Armed Services Committee, Foreign Relations Committee

The Hon. John E. Sununu

Former Senator, NH; Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Foreign Relations Committee

The Hon. Pete Hoekstra

Former Member, US House of Representatives, MI; Chair, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

The Hon. Jim Kolbe

Former Member, US House of Representatives, AZ; Former Chair, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs

The Hon. Christopher Shays

Former Member, US House of Representatives, CT; Chairman, Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security Homeland Security Committee

The Hon. Bob Walker

Former Member, US House of Representatives, PA; Deputy Chief Whip; Chairman, Committee on Science, Space and Technology

Bruce E. Bechtol

Professor, Department of Security Studies and Criminal Justice, Angelo State University

George Beebe

Former Chief, Russia Analysis Group, Central Intelligence Agency

Catherine Bertini

Professor, Maxwell School, Syracuse University

Frank J. Cilluffo

Director, Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, George Washington University; Former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush for Homeland Security

Carrie Cordero

Former Counsel, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Department of Justice

Joseph DeTrani

Ambassador, Former National Mission Manager, Counterproliferation, North Korea, Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Chuck Downs

Former Pentagon Official; Author, Over the Line: North Korea’s Negotiating Strategy

Sumit Ganguly

Tagore Professor, Department of Political Science, Indiana University, Bloomington

Carol A. Haave

Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Counterintelligence and Security

John Hewko

Former Vice President for Operations and Compact Development, Millennium Challenge Corporation

Gregory Hicks

Former Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy, Libya

Bruce Hoffman

Director, Center for Security Studies, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University

Donald N. Jensen

Senior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

David S. Maxwell

Associate Director, Center for Security Studies, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Brig. General R. Tipton Osterthaler

USAF (Retired), Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy; Vice Commander, Air Intelligence Agency

Jeffrey Phillips

Director of Congressional and Government Relations, International Republican Institute

Herman Pirchner, Jr.

President, American Foreign Policy Council

Samantha F. Ravich

Former Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to Vice President Cheney; Co-Chair, National Commission for the Review of Research & Development in the U.S. Intelligence Community

Mitchell Reiss

Ambassador, Former Director, Policy Planning, Department of State

David Satter

Author and former Moscow Correspondent, The Financial Times

Ted Schlein

Partner, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, Byers

Capt. Rinehart Wilke

USN (Retired), Former Chief of Staff, USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (CSG-12)

George W. Bush tests his legacy and its power to jumpstart his brother’s campaign

The Jeb Bush campaign welcomes his brother, President George W. Bush, in Charleston, South Carolina. (Steph Strasburg photo)
The Jeb Bush campaign welcomes his brother, President George W. Bush, in Charleston, South Carolina. (Steph Strasburg photo)

BY SALENA ZITO  szito@tribweb.com

This is one in a series of blog posts from the road as Tribune-Review national politics reporter Salena Zito and photographer Stephanie Strasburg travel around South Carolina talking to voters in advance of the primary elections there.

NORTH CHARLESTON — In his first campaign appearance in eight years, former President George W. Bush on Monday night made himself quite clear.

Without once saying Donald Trump’s name, Bush delivered a nuanced scold to the billionaire businessman’s candidacy just days before Saturday’s pivotal South Carolina primary – by outlining the significance of humility in stewardship and warning that bluster and theatrics should never be mistaken for might.

“Americans are angry and frustrated, but we do not need someone in the Oval Office who mirrors and inflames our frustration,” the former president said. “Strength is not empty rhetoric. It is not bluster. It is not theatrics. Real strength, strength of purpose, comes from integrity and character.”

Jeb_W_Bush_OffRoad_Politics_11It marked a critical moment for the Bush family, as the former president tested his legacy’s strength and whether it has the power to bolster his brother’s uncertain campaign. Saturday we will know if it was enough to reboot Jeb’s bid for the oval office or if it marks the end of the line for the Bush political dynasty.

Jeb, the former Florida governor, has looked to South Carolina for a resurgence in his campaign; he finished near the bottom in the Iowa caucuses, fourth in the New Hampshire primary.

The appearance by the Bush brothers drew more than 1,000 people to the North Charleston Coliseum; many of them said they were there to see the former president in person.

Lawrence Meriwether, of Charleston – dressed in black leather jacket, brown and white checkered shirt, with a silver-dollar Bolo tie with the likeness of Johnny Cash in the center – said it was “inspiring” to see George W. Bush campaign for his brother.

Meriwether wouldn’t say if it inspired him to vote for Jeb.

“Let’s just say I am voting for someone from Florida and leave it at that,” he said.

Derrick Pierce, of Monck Corners, said he was honored to be there to see the former President – “And I am a proud supporter of Jeb,” added the 18-year-old high school senior.

Pierce said he initially was attracted to the candidacy of Donald Trump, “But as soon as he said what he said about Muslims, I was like, ‘That isn’t right,’” he said.

Jeb_W_Bush_OffRoad_Politics_6Pierce plans to head off to the Citadel after graduation to continue the family tradition of service: “I am looking at a career in the military,” he said.

The tone of the crowd in the coliseum was respectful, but not jubilant – which may be more reflective of the type of the people they are than their level of enthusiasm.

But the Real Clear Politics polling averages put Bush nearly 30 points behind Trump both nationally and in South Carolina, also trailing Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich.

A Trump press event, up close

Donald Trump arrives at a press conference in Hanahan, South Carolina. (Steph Strasburg photo)
Donald Trump arrives at a press conference in Hanahan, South Carolina. (Steph Strasburg photo)

BY SALENA ZITO  szito@tribweb.com

This is one in a series of blog posts from the road as Tribune-Review national politics reporter Salena Zito and photographer Stephanie Strasburg travel around South Carolina talking to voters in advance of the primary elections there.

HANAHAN, S.C. – Donald Trump said he came to this small working class town of 19,000 on Monday to oppose moving prisoners of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, but it took nearly a dozen questions from reporters to get to that topic.

“Good question, I was wondering when someone was going to ask that,” Trump said after a local reporter asked why he picked this town to hold a press conference.

Hanahan sits in Berkeley County, and last week the Berkeley County council passed a unanimous resolution opposing the closing of Gitmo and transfer of the remaining detainees to the Navy Brig in Hanahan.

The Obama administration has considered moving the detainees – most of whom are suspected foreign fighters and terrorists – to this as well as other small towns, in Kansas and Colorado.

Donald Trump arrives at a press conference in Hanahan, South Carolina.For the most part, the press conference was a back and forth between Trump and reporters that began with the New York businessman calling Texas Sen. Ted Cruz an “unstable person” and a “liar.”

Shouting questions and playing tug of war over how specific a liar he wanted to call Cruz, Trump was in his element. For the reporters tasked with covering the Republican frontrunner, it was a typical day: exhausting, exasperating and unlike any other spectacle in America politics.

Trump threatened several times to sue Cruz challenging his eligibility to serve as President if Cruz didn’t “take down his false ads and retract his lies.” Cruz and his campaign have slammed Trump’s positions on the Second Amendment and abortion and have said Trump would pick a liberal judge to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

“If Cruz ever got the nomination, the Democrats are going to file the lawsuit,” Trump said. “So in a sense, I’m doing him a favor because I’m filing it early.”

Trump’s press conference showed a man confident and blunt, a man who had no problem admonishing several reporters when their questions annoyed him. At one point Trump rolled his eyes at a CNN reporter’s follow-up question, and he dismissed another reporter’s questions about a statement he made at rally moments earlier.

Donald Trump arrives at a press conference in Hanahan, South Carolina.The press has had an interesting relationship with Mr. Trump. They are typically the butt of his jokes at his rallies. He references them as “stupid” and “terrible people,” says he “hates” them, and encourages the crowd to boo their presence. He has even pondered aloud the merits have having reporters killed, concluding that as tempting as it might be, he’d never do that.

Yet the press are unwilling catalysts to Trump’s success.

Each time they cover him and broadcast yet another outrageous statement that goes lower than any candidate has gone before, Trump climbs higher in the polls.

At one point in the conference on Monday, Trump answered my question on what his closing argument would be to the voters of South Carolina to win the primary Saturday. It was the one calm moment, as he described in length his determination to close the borders, reopen fractured  international relationships and stabilize the Middle East.

The questions shifted back to Cruz, and he continued his assertion that Cruz was too unstable to be president.

When asked about George W. Bush, who had appeared with his brother Jeb at the Charleston Performing Arts Center in North Charleston, Trump was equally blunt: “What does that mean, ‘He kept the country safe after 9/11?’” Trump asked the press. “I’ve heard that for years. What about during 9/11? I was there…the worst attack ever in this country? It was during his presidency.”

The effect on Jeb, Trump said, is it should have kept him from running.

Trump shifted back to Cruz, saying he had to use the press to stop Cruz. Then Trump turned on the Republican National Committee, saying they failed to fulfill the contract of the pledge he signed not to run for president as an independent.

“The pledge isn’t being honored by the R.N.C.,” Trump said, because they were stacking the audiences at the debates with establishment types and donors, he said, audiences who frequently booed him during the last debate.

Outside the municipal building where Trump was speaking, Hanahan High School’s  government and economics teacher, Steve Childers, stood with a couple of his students who were there to earn extra credit if they were able to get a selfie with a presidential candidate.

“We have gone over each of the candidates’ schedules. It did not matter who they chose, just so they were able to interact with them,” Childers said of the project aimed at getting kids excited about the process.

Sheldon, Tyler, and Joey O'Brien waiting to get a "selfie" with Trump.
Sheldon, Tyler, and Joey O’Brien waiting to get a “selfie” with Trump. (Steph Strasburg photo)

“They came out today on their day off of school,” he said, pointing to Tyler O’Brien, 18, of Hanahan, who was holding his selfies with the New York businessman.

“He was going to his car,” O’Brien said. “I asked him politely if he would please take a photo with me – and to my surprise he did!” O’Brien was smiling from ear to ear as he showed his two older brothers, Joey and Sheldon, his photo with Trump.

“We are all voting for him,” said Tyler of the brothers’ choice for president.

His teacher was equally proud.

“This kid is my top student. His energy and determination was admirable,” Childers said.