Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is the Stimulus More Popular Than Republicans Anticipated?

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from South Carolina.

In recent weeks Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) has been earning national attention for his opposition to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

He has twice requested that this cornerstone legislation of President Obama’s economic plan be used to pay down South Carolina’s debt rather than job creation and public works. The White House told him he must spend the money as the law stipulates.

And while Sanford is becoming better known among Americans, he has not been doing so well among his constituents.

From The State:

Many speculate Sanford is planning to run for president in 2012 and is opposing the stimulus plan to win praise from Republican hardliners.

That infuriates some South Carolinians who think they are left to deal with the impact of Sanford’s decisions while he draws praise nationally.

"He’s stirred up strong feelings amongst his constituents, and failed to adequately address those feelings, which is one of the biggest mistakes in crisis communications," said Jonathan Bernstein, who owns a California-based crisis communications firm. "So people will, no doubt, reach their own conclusions as to the governor’s motives."

With a 10.4% unemployment rate in South Carolina - the second highest in the nation - many South Carolinians are desperate for job creation. Unsurprisingly, Sanford’s approach to the recession has made him slip in the polls.

A new poll commissioned by South Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus finds that residents disagree with Sanford’s stance on the stimulus by a 53%-37% margin. Even worse for Sanford, President Obama is seen considerably more favorable than the governor.

Although a poll taken on behalf of a partisan institution is not completely reliable, individual stories of discontent from residents should draw concern.

Out-of-work electrician Everette Walker needed no prompting to express his feelings about Gov. Mark Sanford’s leadership.

"The man is selfish," said Walker, 62. "Here’s a man with a $3.5 million home who doesn’t care if the rest of South Carolina can afford a loaf of bread. It sets me on fire."

…Donna Maddox of Lexington considers herself a Republican but is concerned about Sanford’s rejection of stimulus money that could extend benefits for the unemployed and create jobs.

"My light bill is due next week, and I have no way to pay it. My house payment is due the first of April, and I can’t pay," said Maddox, whose husband was laid off in January from his longtime job.

A homemaker with medical problems, Maddox spent Wednesday afternoon at Harvest Hope Food Bank, filling out paperwork and getting a grocery cart full of groceries.
Maddox thinks paying down debt is a good idea. But, she adds, "We’re not promised tomorrow."

"Whoever thought I’d be here today, getting food? We need help now."

This is yet another case of local Republican politicians using the stimulus bill as a basis for opposing the Democrats and advancing their careers. But it is a major gamble to bet against the stimulus succeeding.

If the stimulus works nationally, but South Carolina is left behind due to Gov. Stanford’s ambitions, he should know he will be doomed politically - whether he is running for President or not.

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