It was exactly eight years ago, in November 2007, when John McCain appeared at a house party in Colleton River. The small group posed a unique opportunity for those interested in the GOP presidential race to get to know the Arizona senator. He even brought his mother, Roberta, who at 95 years old was absolutely charming.
It was a difficult time for the McCain campaign, which had fallen in the polls and appeared to be on life support. When McCain told the assembled how he expected to win the South Carolina primary early in 2008, I said to myself, "Fat chance." But he staged a comeback, won the S.C. primary and went on to win the GOP nomination.
The Iowa caucus is 82 days away on Feb. 1, 2016, and the South Carolina primary is Feb. 20. McCain's lesson from 2007 is that it's still too early to count out any frontrunners or a surprise from the back of the pack.
More on that later, but first I should introduce myself.
At my online blog, Mike's America, I shorthand my background this way: "Mike has experience in politics and government at every level from the Court House to the White House where he worked for President Reagan."
There were a lot of stops along the way. Key among them was my work for the late Rep. John Ashbrook, R-Ohio. Ashbrook was an early founder of the conservative movement, and traveling with him was an excellent education. During those early years I met so many of the early conservative leaders, including William F. Buckley Jr., Jack Kemp, Phil Crane, Ed Messe and Phyllis Schlafly. And of course, Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
In 1988, I arrived in Washington to work at the Reagan White House political office during the campaign that would elect President George H.W. Bush.
In the White House political office, one of our chief tasks was to track the latest polling and media for the presidential election. Today, anyone can get that same information through the online site Real Clear Politics. I'll be summarizing that information throughout the campaign season.
Back to McCain's visit in 2007. During the party, I asked the senator about his failed comprehensive immigration legislation. McCain admitted that he had "learned his lesson" and that border security must come first before any comprehensive plan. Yet in 2013, he joined with liberal Senate Democrats to advance a plan that provided immediate legal status for undocumented immigrants but again treated border security as an afterthought.
That kind of betrayal is a major factor in the anger of GOP voters, who see candidates say one thing to get elected, then do another.
It's clear that those voters are tired of promises that are not matched by performance once in office. Whether that means they are willing to take a gamble on a candidate with little or no elected experience is unclear.
But living in South Carolina, we are fortunate that we have the opportunity to meet many of these candidates in person and even ask a question at campaign events. As yet, I have no dog in this hunt and look forward to questioning candidates as they come to visit. I hope readers will do the same.
Mike Miller of Sun City Hilton Head may be reached through his blog, mikesamerica.blogspot.com.