The motives for the ad campaign are good. The South Carolina Manufacturing Alliance has a television spot featuring Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell touting a website that helps South Carolina consumers find goods made in South Carolina. The website, which is found at http://www.madeinsc.org not only helps consumers find products it also features Speaker Bobby Harrell. He offers remarks on the website.
Before I get into the political analysis, let me digress to say how much I appreciate manufacturing in this state. I worked for nearly five years in a manufacturing plant. My grandfather worked decades in one. My father has spent his entire adult life working in manufacturing. Most of my mentors worked in manufacturing. Manufacturing put food on my table, clothes on my back, and helped pay for my education. I know manufacturings value and manufacturers have no bigger fan.
That said, the political side of me sees a potential move being made here by the Speaker. Though Speaker Harrell is known in political circles, he is not known all that well statewide. The ad campaign going on gives him statewide exposure without his campaign having to pay for it. As he is not yet a declared candidate for statewide office, he can enjoy the ad campaign legally. It is a smart political move for Harrell.
Yet, it could start some sort of trend. With the manufacturing alliance giving such free publicity to a potential candidate for Governor, with others follow suit? Will, for example, some education group put a potential candidate for Governor on statewide airwaves or with other interests groups, such as the Sierra Club put a potential candidate it favors on the air?
Harrell's move is groundbreaking in some ways, but it could backfire. As no major media in South Carolina have called into to question the ad campaign it could lead other groups to feel they could do the same. If several of the potential candidates for Governor who have not declared themselves as candidates get air time paid for by various groups, then Harrell's move will be a wash.
I do not doubt that Speaker Harrell sincerely wants people to buy South Carolina made products. I merely point out the political benefits he gets from the ad campaign. If others see that benefit they will likely be soon to follow, and we in South Carolina will start seeing potential candidates for statewide office show up on statewide television years before the election. Whether purposefully or not, Harrell broke new political campaign ground. Time will tell if some others catch on.