... appears to be a big bust so far, since nobody is officially running for president. (Punchline: What if the DeMint Faction gave a debate and nobody came?) They have until May 5th to stir up some interest and justify all of the Chamber of Commerce/Fox News hoopla. So far, they are stuck with the likes of right-wing fruitcake (and former Pennsylvania Senator) Rick Santorum and former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer. Obviously, they were hoping for rock stars like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, all of whom would provide some fun fireworks.
But... Santorum and Roemer? Not so much.
The Greenville News is worried:
A month shy of Greenville’s Republican presidential debate — now the first in the nation — there are still no formal GOP candidates for president, though some are edging closer.As I wrote here, I had originally planned on a protest, but now I don't think one is necessary. Let's hope it turns into a bust and messes up all of their elephant-sized GOP dreams for now. (I hope Senator DeMint takes it personally that the GOP is dissing the debate in his hometown, hee hee hee!) Of course, I am still encouraging people to show up with signs and misbehave, but I don't think an organized effort will draw many people, unless Bachmann or someone of that caliber shows up.
It’s a far cry from this date four years ago, when the choices were already clear, and the relative slowness of the GOP field to congeal has prompted a four-month delay to the other spring presidential debate.
State GOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd told GreenvilleOnline.com there’ll be no such delay in Greenville and predicted at least five participants in the May 5 Fox News debate at the Peace Center for the Performing Arts.
Two potential candidates, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, have publicly committed to the Greenville debate, while a spokesman for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he will not attend.
It’s unclear what the rest will do.
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said it makes sense for candidates in the out-of-power party to save their money against an incumbent president who’s likely to raise $1 billion.
The pace sets up Greenville to start the national conversation in a Republican landscape where some in the party say voters are eager to build on 2010 victories but where the candidates are still coy about their intentions.
Greenville attorney David Wilkins, former speaker of the state House of Representatives and U.S. ambassador to Canada, said the cancellation of the California debate makes the one in Greenville more important.
“It’s the first one,” said Wilkins, a Republican who has been raising money for the Greenville event as one of its co-chairmen.
Santorum told GreenvilleOnline.com that the debate rules allow participation by potential candidates who have not yet formally announced campaigns.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour haven’t decided whether to run for president and will explore debate opportunities after they decide, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will participate in the Greenville debate “if he’s a candidate,” press aides said.
Gingrich told Foster’s Daily Democrat in New Hampshire this week that he’ll likely decide on a candidacy by May 1.
Attempts to reach officials with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty were unsuccessful.
Santorum was the first to confirm his debate appearance. He said, “I think South Carolina will be a great place to start the action.”
Aaron Walker, spokesman for Roemer, said the former Louisiana governor is also committed.
A debate scheduled for May 2 at the Reagan library in California was delayed until September because organizers said they were concerned it wouldn’t attract all the eventual candidates.
The Greenville debate, however, may serve a different purpose, Sabato said, helping cement the state’s cherished position as the first in the South to judge Republican presidential hopefuls.
“You’ve got to work as hard as Iowa and New Hampshire to protect your status in the system,” Sabato said. “It’s a very favored status.”
And will they? Stay tuned, sports fans.
An anonymous local politico added his two cents, when I told him I wanted to title this post, "Greenville fucked by DeMint wing of Republican party"; he said the subtitle should be "Greenville moans with pleasure."
Yeah. Wish I'd thought of that.