The first ads are out on television for the Henry McMaster for Governor Campaign. Those ads tout McMaster as the old Republican who has a great resume and stands up against Obama’s healthcare plan. It is a tried and true Republican Primary tactic. Republicans feel obligated to the old guy who has paid his dues.
McMaster is that guy. So was John McCain. So was Bob Dole. Henry McMaster served as Ronald Reagan’s U.S. Attorney for South Carolina back in the 1980s before becoming the GOP sacrificial lamb to Democrats Fritz Hollings for the U.S. Senate and Nick Theodore for Lt. Governor. Then, McMaster became the South Carolina GOP Chairman before getting elected as Attorney General. As Attorney General, McMaster touted big issues such as the prosecution of the HomeGold crimes while also being quietly ridiculed in the office by professionals for his eccentric mannerisms.
The public sees McMaster as the old GOP warhorse, those who worked within the Attorney General’s office see him as detached, save for his passion to make sure attorneys and others log in their computers at set times and have documents securely fastened in their file folders. One former staffer for McMaster told VUI, “the guy is nuts, he came around and picked up file folders and shook them to make sure every document was securely fastened. But, if you asked him about a particular case, the guy knew nothing.”
VUI does not think the Attorney General is nuts. We at VUI recognize that discipline has its place and we further commend Henry McMaster for taking on the likes of HomeGold. That said, McMaster’s campaign of “deserving it” is in trouble.
Let’s go back to other famous GOP candidates who “deserved” it. John McCain won the Presidential nomination in 2008 because he deserved it. Bob Dole did such in 1996. Both lost the General Election by a wide margin.
While South Carolina is not the nation as a whole, choosing to nominate someone because they are the old guy who deserves it could prove just as dangerous. Henry McMaster has some glaring weaknesses that could be exploited by a talented Democratic candidate in the Fall. McMaster has a lifelong Republican resume, but in order for him to earn the GOP nomination, he will have to deal with those weaknesses in the coming weeks of the primary.
So far, the McMaster camp all but ignores those weaknesses and instead chooses to play the “the old guy who deserves it” card. That might win McMaster the Gubernatorial nomination, but come the Fall, the weaknesses of McMaster will be front and center. Conservatives who doubt his true dedication might not vote. Swing voters might be turned off by his lack of substance.
Indeed there is a reason why a candidate such as McMaster, who should have been an overwhelming favorite to win the GOP nomination outright now faces a fluid primary race. McMaster has to stop running on his resume and start running on what he will do. South Carolina voters will forgive any alleged eccentricities if McMaster has a substantive plan for what he will do. If McMaster simply stands on his resume, the alleged eccentricities will become real news stories and his candidacy will limp along, with the nomination fight and the General Election, in question.