Thursday, September 22, 2011

Funding Still an Issue for South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary

The question of how the South Carolina Republican presidential primary will be paid for is one that simply won't die. The story has moved from a battle between the state government and the state Republican Party to one more between the state party and elected Republicans on the county level. The latter is more of an intra-party battle; particularly given the Republican Party dominance in the Upstate of South Carolina.

At issue now is that the Spartanburg and Greenville County Councils are considering a lawsuit against the  South Carolina Elections Commission over what local officials are calling an "unfunded mandate" -- that they are being made to disburse funds not accounted for in county budgets for a party function. Yes, on the surface this looks like more of a state versus municipal government dispute. There is that element to this, but again, given the nature in which Republican partisanship permeates the state, much less the region of the state in question, it becomes just as much an issue of tensions between state and local Republicans.

For our purposes here at FHQ, this isn't entirely meaningful. This dispute will not affect the South Carolina Republican Party's ability to stage a presidential primary next year. However, what this does do is call into question the ability of the party to pull off a contest that operates smoothly. Once the looming time crunch is layered in as well, the picture becomes even murkier. If these questions concerning the funding of the primary persist simultaneous with the reality that this is going to be an mid-January to early February contest, the likelihood that the contest can be held without significant problems drops. Now, if the results end up being one-sided for Perry or Romney or whomever, this will not be an issue. Yet, if the primary is a close one, there could conceivably be challenges brought because corners were cut to hold the contest in a cost-effective manner (fewer polls workers, etc.).

Now, this may prove to be something of a false alarm ex post facto, but it warrants watching between now and when the South Carolina primary rolls around.

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