|| by Will Galloway ||
Columbia – Many people mistakenly believe that South Carolina’s primary is a winner take all delegate state. It’s actually winner take all by congressional district, with statewide delegates going to the statewide winner. John Kasich’s 2016 strategy relies heavily on this understanding.
Kasich’s super PAC, New Day for America, has field directors in each of SC’s 7 Congressional districts, but has focused especially on the heavily African American 6th, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, but will have the same number of delegates as the 4th, where Trey Gowdy won by 70% last year.
By emphasizing Kasich’s positions on sentencing reform, Medicaid expansion, and drug reform, his team believes they could win the 3 delegates of the 6th district.
His strategy already seems to be paying dividends; they hosted an event in a majority-minority neighborhood outside of Columbia, and has been canvassing and reaching out to small business owners. New Day for America says they plan to begin direct mail and phone calls shortly.
Kasich’s path through South Carolina is designed to keep him viable after New Hampshire. His team includes 7 members of the South Carolina state house, most prominently Sen. Chip Limehouse III (R-Charleston), and Rep. Gary Clary (R-Pickens).
For contrast, Chris Christie’s SC team consists of an out-of-state consultant, Robert Cahaly, and Columbia attorney Leighton Lord, who the campaign calls “a key supporter”.
Kasich’s strategy has been unconventional in South Carolina ever since he hired Fred Davis and John Weaver, who advised Tom Ervin’s independent campaign for Governor last year. Ervin dropped out just days before the general election and endorsed Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen. This hire turned off several prominent activists and donors, who took it as a slight to Governor Nikki Haley.
Kasich’s untested, unconventional strategy could keep him alive going into Nevada and Super Tuesday. His team has desperately tried to avoid the fate of John McCain in 2000, and they seem to have developed a plan to do so.