The Elephants are Coming, The Elephants are Coming…

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I know many of you were distressed to learn that Barnum and Bailey Circus recently decided to phase out the use of elephants in their shows. But, never fear, here in South Carolina you are going to see a ton of elephants over the next twelve months. Lots and lots of elephants in different shapes, sizes and species. There will be the Walker and Kasich elephants from the Mid-West, the Paul, Perry and Huckabee elephants that hail from the southern region of the continent, Rubio and Bush elephants from further south, and the Christie and Carson elephants which are rarer in the Mid-Atlantic and even some Cruz elephants which are a species unto themselves. And while there may be more pachyderms, there will possibly be several kinds of what is known as a jackass or donkey, too, though there seems to be one queen donkey already.  The point is, the elephants are coming. And you, Mr. or Ms. SC Voter should try to see as many of them as you possibly can.

Why, do you ask? Because my fellow citizens, your vote in the 2016 Primary gets a lot of attention. In fact, it gets a lot more attention outside the state than in it. And certainly more than many of you actually realize. Politicos, pundits and a myriad of interested observers are at this moment, keenly interested in how you currently intend to vote today, and how you ultimately will end up voting. South Carolina matters more because those voting in the primary are more diverse than New Hampshire or Iowa. South Carolina matters more because we are the First in the South Primary. South Carolina matters more because they know the history of the SC Primary, which, up until 2012, had accurately picked the eventual GOP nominee for president. And because South Carolina matters more, I would like to suggest that perhaps you should care more, than many of you do. Because your vote is held in such high regard, you should not take it for granted. You should take as seriously as your fellow citizens in Iowa and New Hampshire, and let me assure you, they take it very seriously. And like them, you should cast it after making an informed and educated decision.

The opportunities to make such a decision will be numerous. The presidential primary is not the cottage industry in South Carolina that it is in Iowa or New Hampshire, and yet it still adds over $50 million to the economy every four years. No matter where you live, but especially in the vote rich Upstate, there will be campaign events, town hall forums, or “meet and greets” held by each of the potential nominees, each vying for an opportunity to make their case, to earn your vote. And they should. But the larger point is this: You need to pay attention, to participate, to attend. You need to listen, to assess and to determine which candidate best represents your personal political view based on our priorities as a voter. For me personally, I want a candidate who I can agree with on most issues (100% agreement not required) and who I think provides my party with the most opportunity to win back the White House. Some might feel more comfortable with a candidate with whom they find themselves totally in sync and care less about the general election. I would disagree with that approach, but it is your prerogative.

The bottom line is this:  How South Carolinians vote matters a great deal in presidential primary politics and very little in the general election. So this, my friends, is your moment in the spotlight. Seize it. Embrace it. Heck, you might even enjoy it, if you dare.

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Chip Felkel
Hollis (Chip Felkel) is a veteran public affairs strategist and political advisor who has worked in the state and national arenas for almost 30 years. He is the CEO of Felkel Group and of RAP Index, a web based advocacy service. Follow him on Twitter: @ChipFelkel

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