Posted Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, at 3:58 PM
MOUNCKS CORNER, S.C. -- A few days ago, the chairman of the Berkeley County GOP resigned. He had to support Rick Santorum. His job wouldn't let him. The choice was obvious. "I do not accept," said Tim Callanan, "nor has history ever shown that moderation is a winning strategy for the Republican Party."
Here in the county seat of Berkeley, a town of around 6,000, voters largely agreed. Mitt Romney worried them. "I don't think you can relate to him," said Theo Rivera, who ended up voting for Rick Santorum. (The Pennsylvanian clinched it when he joked about his simple tax returns and Romney wouldn't immediately release his.)
River folded his arms over a Gamecocks T-shirt as his wife played with their daughter. "Santorum is young, and eager, and motivated. I like Ron Paul, and I thought about voting for him, but he and Newt have been in Washington too long."
Charles and Phyllis Lowder thought about Santorum, but ended up voting for Gingrich. They spoke for 20 minutes about the choice; Phyllis warned me that she had two hours left in her.
"If you leave the slanderous attacks out of it, he's got the best answers," she said. Slanderous? "This stuff about his wife is so old that it doesn't matter, and it's hard to validate. And why bring it up? It's not going to get my husband a job. It's not going to bring back our 401(k)."
Charles nodded. Two years earlier, he'd lost his maintenance job, and since then he'd only ever found part-time work. The Lowders' household income had fallen from $100,000 to $24,000. "We cashed out the 401(k) and we're selling stuff in the yard," said Charles. "I applied for assistance, after our three kids moved in. It was denied. Do you know why?"
"They said they couldn't get a hold of us," sighed Phyllis.
"They couldn't reach us, and we probably called them 50 times," said Charles.
It was a rotten place to be, and they put some of the blame with Barack Obama. "We were in a slide when he took over," said Charles, "but we didn't need to go into this tailspin."