Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
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In an exclusive interview on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour with host Earl Ofari Hutchinson on KTYM 1460 AM Los Angeles on January 22, Lee Bright, Senator from South Carolina 12th District
EOH: Does the latest media revelations regarding Newt Gingrich help or hurt him in South Carolina?
LB: I think, overall, Republicans have a general distain for the media because we feel it’s slanted and biased. So each time a media attacks a conservative, lots of times it helps. From what I can tell from the debate last night, it seems he may get a little bounce. Divorce has become commonplace and they are not always pleasant. One party makes accusations and the other party denies those accusations, and you are trapped with who to believe. I think folks are kind of decent on things that have become common place, which is an indictment on our entire society.
EOH: Could the battle between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney split the party?
LB: I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think Romney is going to energize the base, but I do think the referendum is on the incumbent. Either people want to keep him or move him out. That drives a lot of the votes. It just depends on how strong the anti-Obama vote is. As far as the party fracturing, there won’t be a third party. It’s not good for the country.
EOH: Do you buy the statement that Ron Paul does not have electability?
LB: I think Ron Paul has so much appeal, especially with the younger crowd. Obama had the ability to make a lot of promises that really excited them, but the folks I talked to, Democrats and Republicans, tell me they may not agree with everything this guy says, but what he says he believes. You don’t have to worry about who he’s trying to appease.
EOH: Is the mood shifting between Romney, Gingrich, Paul and Santorum?
LB: I think it’s very fluid. There are a lot of undecided voters. I think Bachmann would have fared a lot better in South Carolina, because a lot of folks were disappointed when she dropped out. A lot of them are going with Paul just because she was for government being the problem, not the solution. The problem is, society has a 30 second attention span, and you have to listen more than 30 seconds to understand what he’s trying to express. I fell like his view of the abortion issue is better. I feel he did a better job of explaining than Santorum. We live in a world ruled by force, and that’s unfortunate. It’s fortunate in this country that we’ve had a bit more underpinning and through our elections, we have elected folks that protect our unborn.
EOH: How big a force will the Evangelical and Christian Conservative vote be in the general election in 2012?
LB: It’s kind of fragmented there. If Evangelicals in their selection cycle are able to coalesce around one figure, it dilutes the strength of the vote. It may be a large factor. I’ve been surprised that there are a lot of folks that wouldn’t consider Romney last time, who are supporting this time. Newt was pretty much out of it, and now he’s fighting for first. It’s very interesting but the Evangelicals are definitely split.
EOH: Will Rick Santorum come out of South Carolina stronger or will it spell the end for him?
LB: A lot of the Evangelicals are supporting him, but there are a lot of questions that folks ask. If you spend a lot of time as a candidate trying to explain bad choices, it hurts your overall message. I think that’s what’s happened with Santorum. The reason Bush did so well, Evangelicals were behind them, but a lot of South Carolinians just were not sold on McCain. I don’t think it was much of a religious fight as just the Republican Party itself. A lot of times it was an obstacle to things we wanted to get accomplished. It’s kind of hard in South Carolina where we have an electorate that pays attention. You’ve got an educated electorate that is not as easy to say which way they will go.
EOH: If Romney is the winner in South Carolina, would you see Social Conservatives and Evangelicals backing him?
LB: I think they have no place to go. Romney has moved his position on issues, I don’t think he has ever been for partial birth abortion. And Obama has definitely gotten to the left on some things. He is a good politician and I am surprised that Obama has not done what Clinton did after pulling off the mid terms. I still go with my statement; I think it’s a referendum on the incumbent. Do we give this guy another 4 years? If the economy starts to get better, that’ll change, but right now the ultimate question is, “is your life better than it was 4 years ago”, and I think most people will answer “definitely not”. That hurts the incumbent. I’m interested in seeing what happens to the economy. I think the Keystone Pipeline was a huge blunder.
EOH: Who are we looking at for Sunday?
LB: I think Newt Gingrich may squeak it out because the media attack helped him. With the Ron Paul issue you have so many voters that don’t vote and have never voted, so I don’t know. I would think it would be Ron Paul in 3rd place. The first two is a toss-up, but my gut right now is Gingrich will probably pull it out.