Back in the early 1980s, when Donald J. Trump was building Trump Tower at 57th and Fifth, the future presidential candidate made quite the impression on Richard Geraghty.
During construction, Trump occupied a third-floor office in a nearby building.
Geraghty, now of Bluffton and vice-chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Club, worked as a CPA in a building across the street.
From his fifth-floor offic,e he could see into the young real estate mogul’s office window.
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And Trump could see into Geraghty’s.
This made it a whole lot easier for the two men to shake their fists and point their fingers at each other when they argued on the phone over leasing terms.
“They were garbage leases,” Geraghty said. “Garbage.”
Geraghty was among a group of Beaufort County Republican self-described “nerds” who I had lunch with recently. During lunch, we did one of the two things that conversational etiquette dictates we shouldn’t: We talked politics.
If Trump gets the nomination, I will resign from the party.
Richard Geraghty, joking
“If Trump gets the nomination,” Geraghty said, “I will resign from the party.”
“You didn’t hear that,” Jim Riordan, of Bull Point and chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, told me, laughing.
“I could be persuaded,” Geraghty said, also laughing … kind of.
On Saturday, Beaufort County Republican Party members — and those who want to weigh in on the Republican race — will choose their candidate for United States president in the South Carolina primary.
On Sunday, Beaufort County Republicans Party members will rest.
For a little while anyway, maybe just long enough to catch their breath — after all, there’s still several months to go in the 2016 election. If the lead-up to the primaries, which don’t end till June, has been any indication, everyone is going to need to reserve some mental energy for November.
The South Carolina Republican Primary is an important one in the party’s nomination process. The state’s array of conservative viewpoints is considered representative of Republican voters nationally. And the primary is thought to be a “firewall” that stops any momentum gained thus far from charismatic characters.
Whoever wins here will most likely go on to the national election.
At least that’s what the past tells us, but let’s face it, this election has been writing its own history.
For the past week and a half, the remaining Republican candidates have made their rounds throughout the state with five of the six making stops in the Lowcountry, where party members and Republican clubs have worked overtime in support of the visits and to keep people engaged in the party and the issues.
They’re excited for the state primary, of course.
“But I’m more excited for the 21st,” Riordan said. “I’m ready for the herd to move on.”
At times over the past six months, the Republican field of candidates has numbered 17.
There is one word that kept coming up to describe this year’s election during our lunch: weird.
Regardless, it might just be the perfect election for those who enjoy the sport of politics, who like nothing more than to get coffee with friends and discuss the players, the strategy, the history, the predictions.
My lunchmates were these people.
“I equate a political debate to the Super Bowl,” said Sarah Kimball, of Bluffton and vice president of the Greater Bluffton Republican Club. “I literally clear my schedule. It’s an appointment on my calendar.”
Kimball is 22 but is unlike a lot of her generation. For instance, don’t ask her about the Kardashians. She knows absolutely nothing.
People my age would rather talk about when Kourtney Kardashian got married
Sarah Kimball, vice president of the Greater Bluffton Republican Club
“People my age would rather talk about when Kourtney Kardashian got married,” she said.
“Er ... Kourtney’s never been married,” I told her.
She covered her face and laughed.
Oh, I saw.
Get Kimball talking about the 2016 presidential election, though, and she can hold her own. She is trying to stay away from Twitter and Facebook because it can start unnecessary arguments.
“I don’t really comment on social media (anymore),” she said. “I mean … I’m right, obviously.”
Kimball, like the rest of those I dined with, is good-natured and self-deprecating but also sure of what she believes and studied in her opinions.
“Schools teach people what to think instead of how to think (these days),” she lamented.
For her, the election year has been fun, but like Riordan, she’s ready to move on to the real deal.
“It started out exciting because you have options,” she said. “Now? Honestly, I’m just kind of sick of it.”
But they know there’s a lot at stake for their party.
“We have to get this right,” Riordan said. “Never in my life did I think I’d see this country trend toward socialism the way it seems to be.”
The group said they’ll throw their support behind whoever gets the national nomination, but they want someone who can beat Hillary Clinton, the candidate they presume will get the Democratic nomination.
“Hillary, actually, is the most interesting story in this election,” Chuck Newton of Dataw Island said.
Newton has long been involved in state Republican parties and campaigns. He’s enjoying the election so far this year, including what’s happening in the Democrats’ camp.
“I haven’t broken the TV yet,” Newton said of watching Clinton’s debates with Bernie Sanders. He particularly enjoys watching Sanders react to Clinton’s jabs.
“How’s he going to respond to this one?” Newton will wonder.
He and Riordan noted how much our conversation kept drifting to the most divisive person in the race: Geraghty’s best friend and favorite lease-writer, Donald Trump.
They knew why.
“He artfully utilizes the media,” Newton said.
“He’s good ratings,” Kimball said.
“People want to see if the hair is real and all that,” Riordan said.
But that’s the problem, they said.
This election is all about the personality. Then again, this is how it is across all facets of American culture these days.
“Morality as a whole is tanking,” Kimball said.
“It’s all reality television. … It’s like Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave,’ ” Newton said. “It’s all ‘Crazy Housewives of Miami.’ How do you decide what is real life anymore?”
This election, they said, needs to take a step away from that.
It needs to be about the issues and about spending the nation’s money wisely.
“(This country) is very superficial,” Riordan said. “We’re superficial as hell.”