The South Carolina primary is just days away, and the claws are coming out among the GOP candidates. The state has quite the reputation when it comes to presidential campaigns. Known for its history of mudslinging, whisper campaigns and vicious rumors, all eyes are on the newest candidates to see what scandals could arise.
Polling in the third state up in the GOP primary has Trump with a double-digit lead, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio. Gov John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson.
In the past, those trailing in the polls have turned to dirty tricks in an effort to win over voters. Whether it was talk of illegitimate children or mental illnesses, some candidates — and their campaign teams — stopped at nothing to get a win.
Here are some of the most infamous South Carolina moments.
John McCain’s Illegitimate Child
The viciousness of South Carolina’s primary dates to the legendary whisper campaign of 2000. Sen. John McCain had just come off of a win in New Hampshire and had a lot of momentum. That is when flyers began to mysteriously appear around South Carolina stating that McCain fathered an illegitimate black child.
However, that young girl is Bridget McCain, a Bangladeshi child that McCain’s wife, Cindy, met on a relief trip and brought to America. The McCains later adopted the young girl. This didn’t stop the smear campaign, and it eventually helped Bush win the 2000 Republican nomination, though the effort was never shown to have been initiated by Bush’s campaign.
In the words of McCain’s national campaign manager, Rick Davis, a smear doesn’t have “to be true to be effective.”
Mitt Romney’s Fake Christmas Card
In 2008, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was targeted when fake Christmas cards were sent to voters during the holidays featuring controversial passages from the Book of Mormon. The cards, which were inaccurately attributed to Romney, apparently were designed to remind voters that Romney was a Mormon. Romney said the cards weren’t his, but he still lost the primary to John McCain.
Newt Gingrich and Open Marriage
In 2012, Newt Gingrich was on the chopping block during a debate in South Carolina. CNN’s Chief National Correspondent John King opened the debate with a question about claims by Gingrich’s ex-wife that Gingrich had asked for an open marriage. He fired back and chastised King for opening a presidential debate with such a question. He went off on the media, saying they are destructive and vicious.
He claimed he was “appalled” and said the question was “despicable.” Gingrich’s response elicited several loud applauses from the audience, with some even giving him a standing ovation. Gingrich went on to win the state, but he later suspended his presidential campaign.