Members of the Palmetto Statesmen, a barbershop chorus, say they think the Republican Party has lost its way. Currently, many say they favor candidate Herman Cain.
Members of the Palmetto Statesmen, a barbershop chorus, say they think the Republican Party has lost its way. Currently, many say they favor candidate Herman Cain. Melissa Block/NPR
One of the earliest primary states is South Carolina, which holds its primary on Jan. 21. South Carolina is a Republican stronghold — with a strongly conservative voting base.
In Spartanburg, S.C., a handful of Republican voters share what's on their minds — and many are leaning toward Herman Cain.
Perry Aims To Win Voters
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is trying to win hearts and minds in the Palmetto State right where it counts — with food.
At a luncheon in Spartanburg Thursday, his wife, Anita, a former nurse, said she loves South Carolina: "Ham and grits, I'm that kinda girl. I think I could live here, too."
And she took some jabs at President Obama's record.
"Our debt is more than $14 trillion and climbing," she said. "I had to look up what a trillion was."
If you think Rick Perry is looking over his shoulder, wondering how Herman Cain stole his thunder, you get that sense from his wife, too.
"As a health care professional, when I hear 9-9-9, I wanna call 911 — because it will raise the taxes," she said, referring to Cain's economic plan.
On Tuesday night, the Spartanburg County Republican Women held their monthly meeting over dinner. Member Mary Anne Riley urged her friends to join in prayer sessions for the country.
"Look, we really need help here — and sometimes it's nice to get together, maybe a breakfast. You can sit there, you can say prayers and maybe have a cup of coffee or something like that," Riley said.
Group treasurer Jane Johnson said she thinks the country is in "big trouble."
"We're bankrupt, economically, morally, ethically," she said. "I mean just turn the TV on and see what has happened to our civilization. And just as God protected the Israelites — I think he can either protect this country or he can destroy this country."
As for the Republican candidates, Johnson said she knows and likes Newt Gingrich. She said she thinks he's intelligent and doesn't put up with nonsense. Her second favorite is Herman Cain — she thinks Washington needs a good businessperson.
"Perry bothers me, just a gut-level feeling I guess," Johnson said. "Romney is maybe not as conservative as I'd like for him to be."
At a gathering of the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce, Donna Simpson said she admires Herman Cain's plain-spokenness, practicality and business experience.
Simpson does marketing and PR for an assisted living center. She's deeply disturbed by the health care overhaul and what it means for business.
"I've attended some seminars where supposed experts from maybe Medicare and different organization have come to speak," she said. "And they've just thrown their hands up and said, 'Who knows? We can't give you any direction probably more so than you already know right now because we really don't know what's coming down the pike.' So it's just left everyone in a bad state."
A Faith-Based Decision
At a rehearsal of the Palmetto Statesmen Barbershop Chorus, Robert E. Lee, who sings lead, said religion and politics go hand in hand.
"You're in the South down here, where you're in the Bible Belt. They say don't get religion into politics," he said. "That's like sayin' don't get our lives into it, because that's who we are and what we are."
Lee and some of the other singers sat down to chat. All of them are engineers and all but one is retired. They all vote Republican. Jon Bane said he thinks his party has a problem with electability.
"Any party that would nominate John McCain to run for the president has got a problem," Bane said. "We don't pick our best candidates. Let's face it, we do not."
Martin Hill said there isn't one candidate that he favors.
"There is at this point really no candidate that just stands out for me — Herman Cain probably comes the closest," he said.
He did say he has trouble with Mitt Romney.
"The issue of him being a Mormon is not so much to me as it is just knowing what he's done as governor of Massachusetts," he said. "Health care is one in particular."
Hill went on to say he'd prefer to see a Christian in the White House. And Lee jumped in to follow up on that.
"I think you hear down here talking about a Christian, you're talking about those that follow the Nicene Creed," he said. "And the Mormons do not follow the Nicene Creed."
Lee said he's a big fan of Michele Bachmann.
"I hate to say this — it's a shame that Bachmann is not a man. It'd be completely different," he said. "Because I think that the politics would respect her more than that. And that's just the natural thing, the way it is, and I hate to see it."
So Lee is focusing on Herman Cain.
"I believe he's a faith-based person," Lee said. "And I especially like his 9-9-9. I do. I like it clean-cut. You pay 9. You pay 9. You pay your 9."
These men agree that the Republicans in power have lost their way. They've been fiscally irresponsible — not conservative enough.
"Look, there are plenty of Republicans in Congress that could have long since stood up and done something about the circumstances we find ourselves in now," Hill said. "So I don't think it's fair to blame the Democrats necessarily for the situation."
Said Lee: "As we say down South, 'Amen brother.' "