MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski provided a challenging and entertaining debate for South Carolina’s GOP gubernatorial candidates Thursday night in Charleston. The debate was heard over WCBD and certain other NBC stations, sponsored by the South Carolina Republican party.
Scarborough referred to Governor Mark Sanford as his good friend, who he said he knew from Sanford’s days in Congress. Scarborough introduced Sanford who was in the audience, looking back at the candidates and smiling politely as they were asked to weigh in on the Sanford controversy.
(Candidates on Sanford MP3 9:54)
On the subject of whether they sided more with Senator Lindsey Graham or with Senator Jim Demint, Henry McMaster said he “refused to take the bait. “I believe in Ronald Reagan’s admonition, and that is to speak ill of no fellow Republican,” said McMaster. “I was party chairman for nine years and spent a lot of time trying to build this party. The last thing I will do is drive a wedge in it, ’cause that’s precisely what the democrats want us to do.”
All candidates were ask about Lt. Governor Andre Bauer’s recent comments concerning government programs. In talking about free school lunches, Bauer said that his grandmother told him not to feed stray animals because they would breed.
Thursday night Bauer defended his position when asked about it by Brzezinski. “It was a metaphor,” he said. “Surely if I had it to do over again I wouldn’t do that. The people in the room didn’t have a problem with it. I stayed after and had a minority minister come up and say, ‘Would you come and say that in my church? That was spot on.’ And he has called me everyday since then because he is disppointed in the way the media has handled this.”
When asked about the Confederate flag, Bauer said that there were not enough votes in the Statehouse to move it off the Statehouse grounds.
Henry McMaster was asked if he thought Bauer would hurt the brand of the GOP. “The Republican brand in South Carolina is so strong is cannot be broken,” McMaster said as applause broke out. “This party is getting stronger and stronger. When I went in as party chairman in 1993 we didn’t control anything. When I left in 2002 we had a majority in the house and a majority in the Senate.”
Concerning Bauer’s comments, Niki Haley tied the issue into one about taking stimulus dollars, speaking agaisnt government dependency and the growth of government. Gresham Barrett sympathized with Bauer, saying that he knew what he meant.
Scarborough asked Barrett if he regretted his vote in 2008 in favor of TARP. Barrett said no, but said that the funds were not spent the way he wanted them to be. Barrett said he made the decision at the time to vote for TARP based on the information he had. Nikki Haley called TARP a big mistake that led to the stimulus package.
On the topic of taking stimulus money for education and job creation, Gresham Barrett said education needs more money, but he was not in favor of a loan that had to be paid back. He talked about how his wife, a first grade public school teacher, had to purchase some of her own classroom supplies. Barrett stressed the importance of education, saying that if a child doesn’t do well enough by the third grade that the child is “lost forever.”