SC takes center stage in latest GOP presidential debate
Posted November 11, 2011
Spartanburg, S.C. — The eight Republican presidential hopefuls are heading to Spartanburg Saturday for a CBS News-National Journal debate focused on national security and foreign policy.
"Folks haven't heard a lot about that from various candidates, so we want to focus on that and see what they want to do about securing American shores and foreign policy around the world," said Scott Pelley, CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor, who will moderate the debate.
Pelley said Friday that the debate could be another game-changer in a race that has seen a number of frontrunners – Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann – over the past several months.
Perry's performance during past debates appears to have lowered his standing in the polls. This week, the Texas governor could come up with the names of only two of the three agencies he had promised to get rid of, if elected president.
"There's a great deal of tumult in public opinion about the Republican candidates," Pelley said. "We have new frontrunners every couple of weeks, so what that tells me (is) people haven't decided. They haven't settled."
According to the latest CBS News-New York Times poll, more than two-thirds of Republicans polled said they haven't decided.
Cain, a businessman who has been battling sexual harassment allegations for nearly two weeks, is still in the lead with 18 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's lost some ground but he's in second, as is former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who's seeing slow but steady growth.
South Carolina is traditionally a conservative state where voters support national defense and more spending on the military.
But they have been closely watching what the candidates say about the economy.
In a Winthrop University poll in September, more than 62 percent of Republican voters in the state said the economy and jobs top their concerns.
The South Carolina Federation of Republican Women had a straw poll of its 110 activists at a convention in Greenville, S.C., at the end of October. More than 40 said the economy and jobs were the issues for candidates to deal with.
Social issues trailed at a distant fifth.
It's a clear signal, said LaDonna Ryggs, a federation board member who runs the Spartanburg County GOP.
"You're going to vote your pocketbook," she said.