Thursday, January 26, 2012

Teaching a workshop at Queens, jabbering about politics at Wingate

A couple of things I'm doing over the next few weeks:

-- I'm teaching my "Writing In 3-D" workshop at Queens University on Feb. 18 and 25. More information and details about signing up are here on Queens' site. This is a good introduction to writing for people just starting out, but it also has some advanced tips for writers looking to get better.

-- On Feb. 9, I'll be part of an election roundtable at Wingate University -- it's free, and it starts at 6:30 p.m. at the McGee Theatre in the Batte Center. I'll be there along with Tony Nownes, a political-science professor at the University of Tennessee, and Scott Huffmon, a poli-sci professor at Winthrop University and director of the Winthrop Poll. So at least two of the people on stage will know what they're talking about.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Newt, Reagan and a Clemson joke: Notes from the campaign trail

I'm down in South Carolina this week, talking to voters and following candidates as we head for the Republican primary on Saturday. Some odds and ends from the road:

-- Candidates generally don't announce their vice-presidential picks this early, but Newt Gingrich has already made his selection: Ronald Reagan. With the former president being deceased and all, I'm not sure what federal laws might apply here, but I'm pretty sure Gingrich wants the Gipper on the ticket.

In his commercials you see him sitting next to Reagan, deep in conversation. In his speeches this week he's referred time and again to "the Reagan-Gingrich textbook" for turning around the country. He shared a Reagan bit on Jimmy Carter: If your brother-in-law is unemployed, it's a recession. If you're unemployed, it's a depression. If Jimmy Carter is unemployed, that's a recovery.

When the laughter died down, Gingrich said: "I may change the name but keep the story."

It can't hurt a Republican to align himself with the most popular Republican of our lifetimes. Of course, Reagan also (for Republicans, at least) projected warmth. Gingrich is still working on that warmth part.

-- It's hard to talk about how candidate spouses look and dress without sounding weird. So let me be delicate here. In person, Callista Gingrich doesn't look as... lacquered... as she does on TV. She sounded interested and engaged talking to voters one-on-one. Maybe she should spend a little time at the microphone.

-- It's early, but today is already showing how absurd the primary process is -- and how fast things can change. Mitt Romney became the prohibitive front-runner based on wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. Except it turns out Romney didn't really win Iowa -- Rick Santorum did. And it also turns out that Rick Perry is dropping out of the race and throwing in with Gingrich. Perry didn't have a lot of support in South Carolina, but Gingrich doesn't need all that much to push out in front.

So basically, a few dozen votes in Iowa swung the race in one direction, and a couple thousand in South Carolina could swing it the opposite way.

Good thing that we don't have an ex-wife scandal to throw the whole race into a blender. Wait, what?

-- And in case you've missed it: Stephen Colbert wants to run in South Carolina but it's too late to get on the ballot. Herman Cain dropped out but it's too late to get his name OFF the ballot. So Colbert wants people to vote for Cain as a way to vote for Colbert. And to drive all this home, they're doing a rally together in Charleston on Friday.

Which is a long way of saying, I know where I'm going to be on Friday.

-- As important as this primary is, folks in South Carolina are still talking college football -- especially West Virginia's 70-33 beatdown of Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

Up in Pickens County, where Clemson is located, county GOP chairman Phillip Bowers is a Clemson grad. We were talking at Yank's Place in Liberty when his buddy Dan Crosby came over to chat. Crosby mentioned hearing that a friend was in Columbia the other day and remarked on how nice the weather was. "It's 70 here," Crosby said his friend told him. "But I hear it's 33 in Clemson."

Yeah, that bruise is gonna linger a while.