Print this Page


FITSNews – May 12, 2008 – With the first round of State House elections less than a month away, things are beginning to heat up considerably in the South Carolina political world. Specifically, it appears that the tug-of-war for the heart and soul of the S.C. Republican Party is beginning to take concrete tactical dimensions …

In case you’re new to South Carolina politics, the so-called “most Republican state in the nation” is actually anything but … Republicans control everything, to be sure, but the party is divided into three distinct ideological camps.

First is a group that’s been dubbed the “Common Sense Caucus,” a group of younger, devoutly fiscal conservative members who are by and large fed up with the big-spending approach to government adopted by the state’s Republican leadership. Lawmakers like Sen. Kevin Bryant and Reps. Mick Mulvaney, Phillip Shoopman, Nikki Haley and Eric Bedingfield comprise the leadership of this group. 

Next up is a group we’re calling the “Middlers,” Republicans who vacillate back and forth between the two emerging ends of the GOP spectrum. House Majority Leader Jimmy Merrill and budding Ways & Means powerbroker Kenny Bingham are two of the more prominent members of this group. 

The third group – and unfortunately, the largest of the bunch – is the RINO Caucus, a group of “Republicans In Name Only” who have consistently joined with the Democrats in blowing tax dollars, electing liberal judges and blocking long-overdue reforms. Sadly, this group includes incredibly powerful lawmakers like Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, Ways & Means Chairman Dan Cooper, LCI Chairman Harry Cato, Education Chairman Bob Walker and pretty much the entire S.C. Senate.

Working behind these three loose lawmaker classifications are two polar opposite political apparati (editor’s note: yes, that’s a word ).

Pushing and pulling to keep the status quo in place is a group led by veteran “Republican” consultants Rod Shealy and Warren Tompkins – who have formed an alliance this year to try and beat back the rising anti-establishment, anti-incumbent tide being advanced by groups like S.C. Club for Growth, Reform SC and South Carolinians for Responsible Government.

While sources in both camps refuse to talk specifics, we’re hearing rumblings that this week is going to be a “Showdown Week” of sorts, as each side looks to press its most compelling arguments in advance of the June 10 Republican primary.

“This very well could be the week that the State House turns into the O.K. Corral,” said one Republican legislator who spoke with FITSNews on condition of anonymity.

Cool! We’ve got calls into a bunch of folks this morning to try and figure out what’s going on, and as always we’ll let you know as soon as we hear something definitive …

Developing …