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Tim Harper: The Story of the 47th President of the United States

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Prologue: Tim Harper -- The Story of the 47th President of the United States

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Timothy S. Harper, The 47th President of the United States, taking questions from reporters in San Clemente, California.

Timothy S. Harper never expected to be elected President -- or, for that matter, to be elected to anything. He was born in Anderson, South Carolina to a loving family that was comfortable and fiercely non-political. He was a businessman by trade, specializing in emerging technologies. Graduating from the University of South Carolina for his undergraduate degree, later pursuing a MBA at Washington University in St. Louis, Harper had prepared for a life in business. But little did he know that the negotiating skills, business acumen and communicative ability that he had worked on so tirelessly in preparation for a career in finance and marketing would put him at a natural advantage for his true calling: politics.

Right out of graduate school, Harper returned back to South Carolina where he got involved in a tech start-up headquartered in Charleston. After 4 years of strong, rapid growth, Harper sold his share of the business -- almost perfectly coinciding with the height of the Dotcom bubble. Leaving the firm with a sum large enough to ensure a comfortable life without much financial stress, Harper settled in a suburb where he found a partner in a schoolteacher and together raised a young girl.

Tim Harper was living the American Dream at the age of 25.

He had no more expectations -- and he was okay with that. He could spend all the time in the world with his daughter and pursue his passion for golf, a second love that he found out he had during a corporate outing in the early 2000s. But as his daughter turned ten and as he saw his USGA handicap drop to nearly scratch, Harper found himself with a lot of free time.

So when Timothy S. Harper first ran for office in 2012, it came as a shock to his family -- a family who had taught their son not to talk about religion or politics at the dinner table.  A life in politics was a hobby turned trade, not a career. At least that's what Harper's upbringing had taught him. As such, he had barely expected to win his primary. But it would be a mistake to say he was never interested in politics. Indeed, perhaps this announcement was not as big a shock as one might have thought. Harper had been fascinated by his political science classes at USC, even more so than his business classes. He had been a lifelong Republican at heart, even though he had registered as an independent. And when he read the news, he would always read the political section the most intently. So he was smart enough to know that he probably wasn't going to win, but he didn't expect to. 

His limited political science career in academia taught him as much. He was going to run in his home congressional district, South Carolina's first. Held by Tim Scott -- a rising Republican star with national ambitions -- the seat was expected to be Scott's for as long as he wanted it. And truthfully, Harper liked Scott. Harper was impressed by Scott's charisma and seemingly genuine appreciation for community, leading him to vote for Scott in 2010. So why run against him just two years later in a primary that political pundits had no idea was even being held? 

Tim Harper hated fighting for fighting's sake. Coming from a deeply religious, almost pacifist upbringing, Harper watched with incredible trepidation the increasingly polarized landscape in the United States. He disliked the Tea Party movement, seeing it as a provocative movement created just to stall, stall, and stall. He thought that providing some primary challenge to Scott, maybe even getting to debate him,  would provide a platform for moderate conservatism that could offer some clarity to Scott's legislative agenda. Ironically, Harper thought the best way to provide clarity and a collaborative form of ideological unity in the face of party politics would be to first split his party in a divisive primary. Although to be fair, Harper never thought he would even have the chance to make it divisive.

So, shortly after telling his family, he filed electronically with the FEC and, as he promised to his wife, put in an agreed upon "insignificant" amount of money to his new fledgling campaign headquartered in his garage.

This is the story of how Tim Harper would end up becoming the 47th President of the United States of America.

This is obviously my very first play-by-play, any feedback would be appreciated. This is a semi-fictional history with a fictional candidate (obviously) placed in real world settings. Where I can,  I will try to credit the creators of the scenarios that I use for this play-by-play. My next post will include photos and pictures of the campaign using the President Infinity interface. For reference, the picture of the candidate is Premier Brian Gallant of New Brunswick. I plan on taking this from the year 2012 to the year 2028, hopefully continuing this if this is successful. 

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Chapter 1: Primary

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Tim Harper announcing his first congressional bid, attempting to unseat incumbent Representative Tim Scott.

Compelling, charismatic, charming: words used by the Post and Courier to describe Timothy S. Harper in a spread about local retail politics. When the young journalist first pitched the story to his editor, he had framed it as a human interest story more so than one about politics or division. When the edition of the paper came to the Harper household, Harper was incensed. Rather than focus on the issues he had entered the race for, the paper instead focused on his telegenic and photogenic properties. The personalized vanity of politics was something he despised and wanted to change, and yet he had already fallen victim to the political media framing that he would spar with so many times over his career.

But perhaps he should have thanked that young reporter -- a reporter who would go on to gain a White House press pass, chronicling Harper's ascent through the political ranks -- because Tim Harper needed help. With 50,000 dollars of his own money financing his minuscule operation he had commissioned his first poll ever. The results were not encouraging. Less than 10% of those polled had even heard of Tim Harper, and only 10% of them intended to support him. When taking out the undecideds, Tim Harper stood at 1% to Scott's 99%. After his spread in the Post and Courier, this name recognition shot up to 50% and in February, stood at 11% -- still at a 70% deficit to Scott's 80%. Scott, determined to his community regardless of whether there was a credible primary challenge or not, campaigned on a positive message. He would barnstorm as a normal uncontested candidate and would not even face a question about Tim Harper's campaign until the third month into his primary campaign. As expected, Scott deflected and said he had no idea who Tim Harper even was. He may have been lying, but truly at that point there was simply no need to know who he was. But after the first question, momentum rose and soon enough Tim Scott would know the name Tim Harper very, very well.

Things were beginning to change, momentum had begun to swing on the other side. Harper's telegenic appearance won him the favor of many households in the area, making him a favorite of television hosts and news programs across the district. Visiting every county in the state, Harper had managed to close the gap to just 27% in March -- holding 30% to Scott's 57%. But still, Harper knew that he probably wouldn't win. For him, it wasn't even a question of if he could win, it was about how a diminished Scott margin of victory would propel his message of moderate conservatism to a larger stage. Harper was okay not being the change, he was perfectly fine just catalyzing it. Harper would continue an aggressive barnstorming operation that would work in bringing his name recognition up higher and higher, and Scott was beginning to campaign in more televised and well-covered events. Harper had wondered why, and began to suspect internal polling on Scott's side that suggested a potentially closer race than most had expected. Indeed, April had come around and the fourth poll of the campaign had been released by his pollsters: Harper was four points below, holding 45% to Scott's 49%. By now, Harper had moved his campaign from his garage to an office and had begun collecting more money in a day than his campaign had in a week back just months ago. Even so, the news sent shockwaves across the South Carolina political scene, with national interest beginning to grow.

Described as a "Tea Party Insurgent" by Politico and a "Polarizing Fire-Breathing Republican" by the Washington Post, Harper was uncomfortable with the perception he had been getting nationwide, and he was especially uncomfortable with the reputation he had earned. Harper knew that if anybody had visited one of his town halls or had engaged with him in a private conversation, they would have known that splitting the local party apart would have been one of the last things he would have wanted to do. But still, the narrative was a good one, and soon beat reporters and news agencies sent small media delegations to cover the campaign.

In the meanwhile, Tim Scott was in panic mode. His internal polling had always suggested a closer race, but now his fears had been realized to the most severe extent. He decided to challenge Harper to a debate, banking on the hopeful proposition that behind all that rhetoric was a distinct lack of policy substance. He was wrong. 

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Harper at Myrtle Beach, SC, finishing a debate against Rep. Tim Scott. The majority of respondents would later say that Harper won the debate.

Harper had accepted his debate challenge and on April 9th, the two of them met in Myrtle Beach. This was all that Harper could have ever asked for -- he didn't even expect to have been considered credible enough to be debated with. Because Harper had only wanted to engage the party in the issues from the get-go, he would relish the opportunity to engage the people in a conversation about policy. As the hall filled up to capacity -- far more than would have been expected for a primary debate in any district -- Harper would be pointed all night, rebuking Scott's attempts to personalize the race with sharp policy criticisms that showed the field depth of his political knowledge. Harper would not be completely unrefined, for it was not a blowout. But while the majority of instant-respondents identified Scott as the more "intelligent", that majority also found Harper to be the winner. There was already an expectation for Scott to perform well, for he was well known for his eloquence and rhetorical abilities. Harper however, was still generally unknown to a good amount of people. His months of practicing retail politics, which he had a natural talent for, had paid off big on the debate stage. The next day, internal polling had shown that for the first time, Harper held the lead at 50% to Scott's 47%. Suddenly, Harper had been thrust into the national spotlight as a genuine competitor to a formerly perceived indomitable incumbent.

Deep down too, Harper slightly relished it. The campaign, the adulation, the press coverage. He and his wife had enjoyed the perception of a model family, and though his national reputation would leave much to be desired, he would find comfort in the fact that his district knew him better. On that debate stage, he was in his prime -- it was then and there that he realized that if he had to live a life in politics, it would not be the worst thing in the world. More importantly, he decided now to work to win. 

Scott had the same mindset. Days after the debate play backfired, he decided to reshuffle his campaign team. A poll days later found him at a 5% deficit, solidifying the first poll not as an outlier, but a dangerous reality. Scott decided that he needed to take drastic action.

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Left: Gov. Nikki Haley announces support for Rep. Tim Scott. Right: Harper addresses reporters on questions of financial impropriety.

On April 20th, the popular Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley would stand on a podium and declare to hundreds of adoring supporters that she was "all in" for Tim Scott. The next day, a breaking news report had shaken Harper headquarters: improper speculative behavior during his time at his tech start-up firm may have resulted in an abuse of position that led to exorbitant financial gain. Dropped in the Post and Courier like a trap, the news article halt Harper's formerly unstoppable momentum dead in its tracks. Harper would cancel all of his events for the next three days, staying at home while getting a glimpse at just how negative, cynical and gladiatorial politics can get. Suddenly, those fawning reporters asked gotcha questions and anything he could say could somehow be misconstrued into suggesting an even greater scheme to profit. Harper felt trapped. The voters of SC-01 were voters of character and integrity, and this threatened to break their trust. 

So on the 27th of April, Tim Harper spoke to reporters for the first time in nearly a week. For three hours, he took every question from every reporter. He stood at the podium, expressing regret for the situation but not regret for his actions, using almost legal precision to emphasize his innocence. He stumbled once or twice, misspoke a few times, and perhaps overdid it a few more times. But with his wife right behind him, he looked professional and electable. With the whole conference televised, Harper answered every single question in a marathon session that would be described as "remarkable" the next day by pundits and newspapers alike.

The campaign was back on track -- or so they thought. With May polling out on the 1st, Harper was down 17%. He had stood at 35%, 8% below Tim Scott's 43%. Harper was bewildered: he thought he had mitigated the worst effects of the scandal and thought that the media had effectively forgiven him. He had sought legal counsel that had vindicated him of wrongdoing, and had not faced a question on the subject matter since his press conference. Suddenly, Harper's budding political career had turned into a jump-start gone wrong. As the Washington Post beat reporter left, so did the New York Times. Soon, it was just local reporters that had followed him around. 

Harper didn't mind.

He realized that he wasn't seeking out the votes of New York audiences or D.C. types, but rather those who watched and read local news. He continued his charm offensive, as Rep. Scott continued to use Nikki Haley as his most effective campaigning tool. With one of the most politically damaging scandals now neutralized, Scott could sit upon a stable 8-12% lead without too much hesitation. All in all, Scott was happy. It looked like he was going to eek out another win in the last month of campaigning, with polls fluctuating between a 5-10% lead. In the meanwhile, Harper campaigned vigorously. Slowly, his crowds began to return, donations starting to trickle in again. He was able to recover some support, but never the amount he had beforehand. The second half of the month was more divisive, as the campaign trail began to come to an end.

"A momentous political start," the Post and Courier described, "Harper's homemade brand of political credibility has made him a statewide name, laying the foundation for a future run at state office." News organizations across the state described Harper as an upcoming political figure in state politics, fresh off the heels of a better than expected performance in the primary. But Harper did not settle. At one point, Harper was able to get the lead down to 4% only before the June 1st poll, and the final poll before the primary. Harper was expected to lose by 6%, 41% to 35%.

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Harper speaking at his victory party, beating Rep. Tim Scott by 59% to 41% in the Republican primary.

Harper found election night to be excruciating. In his future political career, Harper would run in many elections, but not enjoy one election night. A business man by trade, Harper had prepared for contingency plans more than anything else. He had four speeches written -- one if he won, one if he lost, one if he had won by a margin of less than 2%, and one if he had lost by a margin of less than 2%. He had spent the most time preparing and reciting his general concession speeches. Little did he know that he would be delivering his victory speech. 

Harper won decisively. Although it would be one of the last elections that the Associated Press would call, Tim Scott conceded early and gracefully. Harper had defied the odds and beat Tim Scott handily.

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Left: Aggregate data for election night. Right: Regional data for election night.

His speech would be delivered with some hesitation, some anxiety and  maybe even some fear. Harper had never expected to get this far -- he had frankly never expected for Rep. Scott to even know his name. It was by far the most difficult thing he had ever done in his life, and nothing had come even close. As ended his speech, he would walk out in front of his podium with the classic smile known to so many as the "Harper Smile," going out into the crowd to shake hands and give thanks. Political observers across the country were surprised -- Gov. Haley called Harper to give her personal congratulations. Suddenly, the beat reporters who had given up on Harper in the days of scandal had filled up his voicemail with comment requests and interview questions. But Harper took this victory as a personal one as well -- it instilled a confidence in himself and his beliefs that would drive his success in a political sense and a personal sense. At the end, he had come out victorious with no plan on what to do next. 

He had to fight a general election, he knew that. But the district was strongly Republican, and although the primary race had fractured the Republican party and had led some Scott supporters to the other side, he was confident in his general election chances. But the moment that he had left the podium and the grand ballroom, campaign strategists and pollsters surrounded him about what to do next -- for the next 48 hours would be the most important days in the campaign. But Harper was tired; for the first time in the race all he wanted to do was sleep. He was victorious, after all. He hadn't beat a old victory-prone incumbent whose political skills had atrophied years ago, he had defeated a strong incumbent with close community ties that had a bright future in national politics. 

But while Harper retired to his bed, those around him more skilled and well-versed in politics knew that he also had a bright future ahead of him. He could use this national momentum to secure valuable positions in the House to jumpstart a even more fruitful career in national politics. He could leverage his safe district and charisma to secure a spot on leadership and maybe join a caucus for some early influence. His fundraising ability was impressive, but with the right prompting could be scarily effective. Everybody except Harper was assured that he was going to do great things. 

But first, he had to win the general election.

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Historical opinion polling for South Carolina's 1st congressional district Republican Primary.

 

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Chapter 2: Mr. Harper Goes to Washington

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Bobbie Rose addresses the Latino Festival in South Carolina.

In many ways, Bobbie Rose exemplified the typical South Carolinian Democrat. Announcing her candidacy in late January, she had always had political ambitions, yet never deluded herself into thinking that she could win. The Harperesque insurgent rise that occurred in the Republican primary couldn’t possibly happen in the general for a Democrat, so she just dedicated herself to defending her platform as fiercely as she could. Like Harper, she’s okay with not being the change – so long as she has some part in making it.

For her entire life, Bobbie Rose has always been an activist for what she liked to consider change. She campaigned vigorously for the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, a vote that Tim Scott did not support. She considered herself a feminist, a union supporter and most importantly, a mother. Her Democratic primary candidacy went unopposed, with most Democrats predicting that any opponent of Tim Scott’s would face a near certain loss.

An electoral predicament for most, Bobbie Rose saw it as policy vindication. She came out strongly in favor of a progressive platform that couldn’t be restrained by party politics, seeing as how the party had basically stopped trying. Strongly advocating for reproductive rights and alternative energy, her social policy matched her economic beliefs as she crisscrossed the district lambasting corporations and Republican corporate interests.

An intelligent woman – a member of Mensa – and a fierce campaigner, she would ensure that nobody would be elected to her district without at least addressing the issues that she cared about. But she knew that would be limited to some extent by political realities.

Indeed, in the general election there was no delusion on either side: the momentum behind the Republican candidate and the traditional Republican nature of the district were good signs for whomever the Republicans decided to nominate; especially considering that Democrats haven’t won the district since 1981.

So it was truly lucky for progressive firebrand Bobbie Rose that this just so happened to be the year when the Republican party faced significant infighting.

The day after the primary, Harper walked into ground-operations HQ and was greeted not with the jubilation one might expect after a decisive win, but rather with somber faces. The new polling had come in. The infighting and scandal, not to mention the derisive and hostile tone the campaign took in the last month, resulted in the general election being labeled a toss-up. The generic Republican candidate had come in at 41%, to Bobbie Rose’s 47%.

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General election polling from the beginning to the end of primaries.

Again, Harper wasn’t too worried – Harper was reassured by Tim Scott on the eve of his primary victory that he would have his full support. The next week brought endorsements from Governor Nikki Haley, Representative Tim Scott and Senator Lindsey Graham. What followed next was a nearly 12% bump, with Harper now leading Rose 53% to 45%. The general campaign was not nearly as intense as the primary, but Harper made sure to bolster his credentials with the national press anyway. Still visiting every county in the district, Harper continued to promote his vision of Congress and the inclusive spirit that he believed brought him through the primary. Nationwide though, Republicans were not as impressed. Rank and file Republicans who came out strong for Scott expressed private disappointment and saw Harper as just another congressional agitator with big dreams; even worse this time, from the left of the party. As a result, congressional support for the general election was limited. Funding was cut short and requests for surrogate support were denied. After Governor Romney’s victory in the Republican primary, Harper was enthusiastic. While his first choice Jon Huntsman spoke to everything Harper believed in, Romney would be a not-too-painful compromise. So, Harper took it especially hard when Romney declined his invitation to visit South Carolina’s 1st congressional district.

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General election polling from the beginning to the end of the election.

In fact, a big issue in the campaign tended to be Harper’s ability to achieve anything in Congress. Bobbie Rose suggested that Harper’s election would result in Congress effectively penalizing South Carolina’s 1st – to which Harper responded with skepticism, asking if Rose’s solution was to ensure that the district elect a progressive Democrat in a Republican dominated Congress instead.

But what most political pundits who followed the race noted was that this race was very much about the issues. The race was primarily a discussion on policy and specific acts, adjudicating the effects and long-term costs of policy in a manner that reflected the best of electioneering discussion.

As election night came closer, Bobbie Rose began to ask herself if she could have won, had she done some things differently. At this point it was obvious, Harper had injected a new level of energy into the race that was appealing and drawing votes. Rose could count on some disaffected Republicans to come out and vote for her, so she expected Harper’s majority to be smaller than that of Scott’s two years ago. But this would likely be her only and last chance to be somewhat close to the national stage – the policy debate that she held for decades had, for the first time ever, a chance to be elevated nationally with her playing a major part. But in the end, she had no regrets and believed that she ran a perfectly proficient and sufficient campaign.

Election night was a drag. As South Carolina’s numbers started coming in, Harper sat with his family in a specifically lit and prepared “family” room, carefully choreographing his seemingly genuine smile of surprise when Wolf Blitzer called a “major breaking news projection” for Tim Harper in South Carolina’s 1st congressional district. It was an early call, just like the state in the presidential election.

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Left: Regional data for election results. Right: Timothy S. Harper addresses supporters after winning South Carolina's 1st congressional district.

Walking out to the podium, Harper thanked the people of South Carolina 1st, his family, and Bobbie Rose for an excellent campaign. He promised to “clean up” Washington and to broker an era of cooperative work. While the content was precisely the opposite of what one might think a “Tea Party Insurgent” would say, the cheering and applause was no quieter than a rowdy Tea Party rally.

However, the cheering and applause would soon be tapered as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania were called for President Obama. Harper had hoped, truly hoped, for Governor Romney. Yet he read the same polls as the rest of America: it was always going to be unlikely for that to happen.

With Harper’s electoral victory, for the first time in a long time his schedule was blank. He had no idea what to do or what he should do. There was nobody else to convince or talk to, at least not for now. He had won. Not more than one year ago was he working tirelessly at the range trying to nail his driver slice down. But luckily for him, he was entering a profession that would provide plenty of opportunity to golf.

So, with national interest moving on, Harper would return home for a well-earned few weeks with his daughter and wife. He would scout out a small studio in Washington D.C. Life was moving fast for Harper – he was joining an exclusive club of some of the most powerful 435 people in the world, and he was only one of 36 Republican freshmen in the new 113th United States Congress. But somehow, he didn’t seem to be phased by all of it. He took everything with the same temperamental ease that he applied to his business career and now blossoming political career. Make no mistake though, it would not be easy for him.

Harper would get a bunk, basement level office in the Office lottery – a tradition that spans decades. Congressional leadership would frequently shun him, and he had few main friends. His contact with Democrats was infrequent, making a few friends in the congressional gym and on the links. For a large portion of his time in Congress, at least for the first term, he felt a certain loneliness that made him unenthusiastic at the prospect of going back to Washington. Perhaps this is what it meant to be “jaded?”

Not wanting to engage in leadership infighting for no purpose, Harper toed the party line exceptionally, voting with the whip in most cases. He would vote in favor of the 2013 federal budget, the 2014 NDAA, the Savings Promotion Act and the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act. He voted against the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 and the proposed internet sales tax. Though he was noted as “friendly” and “amicable,” few noted Harper as a standout figure – surprising many who had followed his campaign from the beginning. Even his speeches were more restrained, often copying the main points and stylistic manner of majority leader Eric Cantor.

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Tim Harper standing in the Well of the House of Representatives for his maiden speech.

He would be assigned Small Business and the dreaded Science, Space and Technology committee for his freshman year. All in all, he was a very normal member of congress who did not like to make waves and stuck to the tune of the party.

Except for one thing.

Tim Harper found an appreciation for the press. He would be their frequent go-to source. Harper found that leaking and providing information to the press directly in more closed-kept environments was a far better way to effect change than a floor speech. He would instruct interns to leak relevant information from his committees – which came rarely – and would form collegiate relationships with the press. This mutualistic relationship would come in very helpful for persuading and enacting policy agenda movements that he thought were important.

But as a freshman, he realized that he had a unique level of freedom – insiders in the South Carolina 1st congressional district Democratic district association no longer believe that they will even contest the seat, lacking resources and backing from the national campaign committee.

In early 2014, President Obama addressed Congress in his State of the Union address. Harper made some waves by being the only Republican to clap, when the President said on healthcare, “But I know that the American people aren’t interested in refighting old battles.  So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice – tell America what you’d do differently.  Let’s see if the numbers add up.  But let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans.”

Irking some in congressional leadership, this simple clap was an act of party defiance. Harper had realized that his seat was safe. His constituents were happy with him and, most importantly, he didn’t see politics as a permanent ambition. He could afford to be a maverick, and maverick he would be.

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Chapter 3: Maverick – or not?

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Tim Harper speaks to reporters at the annual Congressional Health Awareness Policy Conference.

“These last few months have been strange for Rep. Tim Harper (R),” a Politico reporter notes, “he’s been bucking congressional leadership continuously, calling for a new generation of leadership while lambasting his own party hierarchy for not negotiating with Democrats.”

It is May 2014 and Harper has embraced his maverick image to the fullest. He has fended off any primary challenge that congressional leadership might have leveraged him with and is now enjoying a politically free life. But leadership is okay with it, for now at least. 2014 looks to be a boon for the party, with the Republican National Campaign Committee expecting to pick up benches of seats in this midterm election.

For Republican leadership, it can be more convenient to just forget about annoyances or distractions. In establishment circles, Harper has effectively made himself persona non gratta. That’s okay for Harper, he has an uncontested seat with no primary challenge. With less than 20 bills cosponsored in the year and no bills introduced, Harper ranks among the last in congressional productivity. Harper prefers to spend most of his time in his friend’s constituencies, visiting former Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s district especially frequently. Harper has also hosted no shortage of fundraisers for his friends, including but not limited to Congressman Will Hurd, Leonard Lance and fellow South Carolinian Trey Gowdy. Over the past few months, Rep. Tim Harper has made himself into somewhat of a celebrity on the hill, using his press acumen and relationships to promote his reputation as an institutionalized maverick. His reputation had drawn the ire of leadership and the respect of many; he has ironically become a polarizing figure himself.

Because he faces no competition from the Democrats in his constituency, Harper begins to dedicate the majority of his time to fundraising for friends, accumulating political capital and favors in the meanwhile. Unlike many of his colleagues who despise fundraising, Harper loves it. In fundraising, Harper can fully leverage his learned business talents, earning millions from donors and friends back at home and around the country. By September, his talents – despite the shared animosity between himself and leadership – allowed him to quickly rise through the ranks of the National Republican Congressional Committee, even being placed in leadership under the Treasury division of the committee.

His newfound skills place him and leadership in a unique predicament: not wanting to alienate one of their most proficient fundraisers, but not wanting to reward explicit insolence, leadership was unable to effectively penalize Harper. Harper was able to maintain his maverick image for now – so long as the money kept coming in.

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Regional SC-01 results for Election Night 2014.

Election Night 2014 brought Republicans gains across the nation. Harper’s seat was one of the first called nationwide, with the only opposition being the Libertarian candidate who banked on disaffected and disappointed Republican votes. The new Republican House excited Harper, who felt like – despite his rhetoric – his fundraising assistance and efforts deserved some recognition, possibly in a new committee assignment? Obviously hesitant, leadership took his bid to join Foreign Affairs under advisement. But why Foreign Affairs? There’s no money in foreign affairs, lobbying fees are limited and campaign donations typically smaller compared to what one might get by being on Appropriations or Finance. The most fervent followers of the Hill even go so far to note that perhaps Harper is trying to boost foreign policy credentials for a future presidential run.

Harper is candid when confronted with this question.

“Ever since my college days I have been interested in international policy and geopolitics; I don’t think it’s that big a surprise that I would continue pursuing this interest in a professional sense. I just hope that I can bring a new perspective to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.”

Truth be told, perhaps he did pursue the committee out of an earnest interest in the topic. He had no shortage of funds and campaign resources, nor had foreign policy ever played a major part in any of his campaigns thus far. Certainly, for a politician who seeks to exact change and does not care about the flashiness in doing so, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs could very well be a great place to start.

Regardless of intention, leadership eventually did rewarded Harper with a seat on the committee. Harper very quickly adapted to his new role.

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Harper sitting in his seat at the House Committee for Foreign Affairs.

Suddenly, observers noted as if Harper had become a new sort of Congressman. The number of bills submitted onto the docket that he had sponsored skyrocketed, and the number of comments criticizing leadership plummeted. Unlike the chairman of the committee, Harper attended most sessions and engaged in thoughtful, pointed questions during witness testimony. Harper drew praise from both sides of the political aisle for his rhetorical ability and genuine commitment. Harper would be sent on a variety of fact-finding missions, from trips to Israel to delegation visits to Bolivia. Around the world, Harper relished the travel opportunities that his new committee assignment offered him. For a brief while, Harper enjoyed his new status in Congress. He had once again changed reputations, from maverick to establishment work-horse. Then came Trump.

The very premise of Trump’s candidacy revolted Harper. According to Harper, his political tackiness, rhetoric and lack of subtlety corroded the very institution and reputation of American politics. Harper was sure that Trump would never win, but nonetheless didn’t like the fact that he was shifting the tone of the conversation so significantly against immigration. Perhaps the only thing that he despised more than Trump was the Freedom Caucus – a group that now felt emboldened in some part by Trump’s rhetoric. The caucus was starting to get on to Harper’s nerves, as they had been responsible for voting down a majority of legislation Harper had cosponsored related to foreign policy, using their non-interventionist foreign policy as justification. Harper found this foreign policy doctrine deeply problematic, and the group’s ideological fixation on non-interventionism made him ask why he even worked on all that policy to begin with. To make things even worse, they had pressured Speaker Boehner to resign, effectively handicapping his term as Speaker through their insistence on ideological purity. Harper had always appreciated Boehner, even if that feeling wasn’t always reciprocated. He appreciated Boehner’s candor and pragmatism and was personally saddened to see him go. Although he would find his friend in the Speakership with Paul Ryan, Boehner, Trump and the standstill of bipartisan legislation that he had supported would compel him to the floor to deliver an indictment of politics in America that would be remembered for years to come.

Image result for brian gallant speech

Harper delivering his "Tone of America" speech to the 2015 McDowell Conference for Freedom and Liberty.

People often remember politicians for their speeches – President Obama’s 2004 DNC speech, President Bush’s 9/11 speech, Ted Kennedy’s Dream Shall Never Die speech, etc. Harper will undoubtedly be remembered for his “Tone of America” speech. In a rare speech that illuminated inter-party conflict in more vivid detail than ever before, Harper delivered a stunning rebuke of Trump, the Freedom caucus and politics. Although the speech didn’t go so well with many of his Trump-supporting colleagues, not to mention his Freedom caucus colleagues who sat with him on Foreign Affairs, his speech was an instant hit. In the 24 hours after the speech was delivered, an eight-minute video of the speech was replayed over 500,000 times on Youtube and shared over 70,000 times on Facebook. Back at home, although the video was a call to order and united political civility, the video brought to light an unspoken but needed conversation that was being held in the state.

Related image

Governor Haley and then Lt. Governor McMaster embrace after Gov. Haley announces that McMaster will take the open Senate seat vacated by Sen. DeMint's resignation.

In December of 2012, Senator Jim DeMint resigned to join the executive leadership of the Heritage Foundation. Governor Haley appointed Lt. Governor Henry McMaster to the position. In 2016, Senator McMaster would seek a mandate of his own for the first time, delivered by the people of South Carolina. McMaster had been suspected to be a closeted Trump supporter, given how many considered his views to be similar to that of candidate Trump. Harper’s “Tone of America” speech gave a voice to those in the state who were reluctantly Republican in the face of a towering, ominous Trump-like momentum of support that seemed unstoppable. A Draft Harper campaign was in the works, and to be honest, Harper had personally considered seeking higher office at some point in the future as well. But it would be wrong to consider this politically motivated – Draft Harper was a fringe movement of no more than 200 people. Polling showed Senator McMaster’s support to be hovering near 60% with voters, and almost 75% with Republicans in the state. If Harper was to run, he should do so with no honest intention to win. His primary victory was something else for sure, but a Senate seat is a different game altogether. Harper understood that. He didn’t need the name recognition, nor the organizational campaign structure – he had all of that from his first congressional primary upset. What he needed was clarity and closure on the things he addressed in his speech, a feeling that he was doing something to fix it, rather than just addressing it. So, for the second time in his short political career, he took on the beast and suited up in an improbable and unlikely primary challenge.

Tim Harper would run against a popular incumbent Senator, aiming to become the next Senator of Georgia.

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2 hours ago, falk said:

Chapter 3: Maverick – or not?

Image result for brian gallant in committee

Tim Harper speaks to reporters at the annual Congressional Health Awareness Policy Conference.

“These last few months have been strange for Rep. Tim Harper (R),” a Politico reporter notes, “he’s been bucking congressional leadership continuously, calling for a new generation of leadership while lambasting his own party hierarchy for not negotiating with Democrats.”

It is May 2014 and Harper has embraced his maverick image to the fullest. He has fended off any primary challenge that congressional leadership might have leveraged him with and is now enjoying a politically free life. But leadership is okay with it, for now at least. 2014 looks to be a boon for the party, with the Republican National Campaign Committee expecting to pick up benches of seats in this midterm election.

For Republican leadership, it can be more convenient to just forget about annoyances or distractions. In establishment circles, Harper has effectively made himself persona non gratta. That’s okay for Harper, he has an uncontested seat with no primary challenge. With less than 20 bills cosponsored in the year and no bills introduced, Harper ranks among the last in congressional productivity. Harper prefers to spend most of his time in his friend’s constituencies, visiting former Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s district especially frequently. Harper has also hosted no shortage of fundraisers for his friends, including but not limited to Congressman Will Hurd, Leonard Lance and fellow South Carolinian Trey Gowdy. Over the past few months, Rep. Tim Harper has made himself into somewhat of a celebrity on the hill, using his press acumen and relationships to promote his reputation as an institutionalized maverick. His reputation had drawn the ire of leadership and the respect of many; he has ironically become a polarizing figure himself.

Because he faces no competition from the Democrats in his constituency, Harper begins to dedicate the majority of his time to fundraising for friends, accumulating political capital and favors in the meanwhile. Unlike many of his colleagues who despise fundraising, Harper loves it. In fundraising, Harper can fully leverage his learned business talents, earning millions from donors and friends back at home and around the country. By September, his talents – despite the shared animosity between himself and leadership – allowed him to quickly rise through the ranks of the National Republican Congressional Committee, even being placed in leadership under the Treasury division of the committee.

His newfound skills place him and leadership in a unique predicament: not wanting to alienate one of their most proficient fundraisers, but not wanting to reward explicit insolence, leadership was unable to effectively penalize Harper. Harper was able to maintain his maverick image for now – so long as the money kept coming in.

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Regional SC-01 results for Election Night 2014.

Election Night 2014 brought Republicans gains across the nation. Harper’s seat was one of the first called nationwide, with the only opposition being the Libertarian candidate who banked on disaffected and disappointed Republican votes. The new Republican House excited Harper, who felt like – despite his rhetoric – his fundraising assistance and efforts deserved some recognition, possibly in a new committee assignment? Obviously hesitant, leadership took his bid to join Foreign Affairs under advisement. But why Foreign Affairs? There’s no money in foreign affairs, lobbying fees are limited and campaign donations typically smaller compared to what one might get by being on Appropriations or Finance. The most fervent followers of the Hill even go so far to note that perhaps Harper is trying to boost foreign policy credentials for a future presidential run.

Harper is candid when confronted with this question.

“Ever since my college days I have been interested in international policy and geopolitics; I don’t think it’s that big a surprise that I would continue pursuing this interest in a professional sense. I just hope that I can bring a new perspective to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.”

Truth be told, perhaps he did pursue the committee out of an earnest interest in the topic. He had no shortage of funds and campaign resources, nor had foreign policy ever played a major part in any of his campaigns thus far. Certainly, for a politician who seeks to exact change and does not care about the flashiness in doing so, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs could very well be a great place to start.

Regardless of intention, leadership eventually did rewarded Harper with a seat on the committee. Harper very quickly adapted to his new role.

Image result for brian gallant in committee

Harper sitting in his seat at the House Committee for Foreign Affairs.

Suddenly, observers noted as if Harper had become a new sort of Congressman. The number of bills submitted onto the docket that he had sponsored skyrocketed, and the number of comments criticizing leadership plummeted. Unlike the chairman of the committee, Harper attended most sessions and engaged in thoughtful, pointed questions during witness testimony. Harper drew praise from both sides of the political aisle for his rhetorical ability and genuine commitment. Harper would be sent on a variety of fact-finding missions, from trips to Israel to delegation visits to Bolivia. Around the world, Harper relished the travel opportunities that his new committee assignment offered him. For a brief while, Harper enjoyed his new status in Congress. He had once again changed reputations, from maverick to establishment work-horse. Then came Trump.

The very premise of Trump’s candidacy revolted Harper. According to Harper, his political tackiness, rhetoric and lack of subtlety corroded the very institution and reputation of American politics. Harper was sure that Trump would never win, but nonetheless didn’t like the fact that he was shifting the tone of the conversation so significantly against immigration. Perhaps the only thing that he despised more than Trump was the Freedom Caucus – a group that now felt emboldened in some part by Trump’s rhetoric. The caucus was starting to get on to Harper’s nerves, as they had been responsible for voting down a majority of legislation Harper had cosponsored related to foreign policy, using their non-interventionist foreign policy as justification. Harper found this foreign policy doctrine deeply problematic, and the group’s ideological fixation on non-interventionism made him ask why he even worked on all that policy to begin with. To make things even worse, they had pressured Speaker Boehner to resign, effectively handicapping his term as Speaker through their insistence on ideological purity. Harper had always appreciated Boehner, even if that feeling wasn’t always reciprocated. He appreciated Boehner’s candor and pragmatism and was personally saddened to see him go. Although he would find his friend in the Speakership with Paul Ryan, Boehner, Trump and the standstill of bipartisan legislation that he had supported would compel him to the floor to deliver an indictment of politics in America that would be remembered for years to come.

Image result for brian gallant speech

Harper delivering his "Tone of America" speech to the 2015 McDowell Conference for Freedom and Liberty.

People often remember politicians for their speeches – President Obama’s 2004 DNC speech, President Bush’s 9/11 speech, Ted Kennedy’s Dream Shall Never Die speech, etc. Harper will undoubtedly be remembered for his “Tone of America” speech. In a rare speech that illuminated inter-party conflict in more vivid detail than ever before, Harper delivered a stunning rebuke of Trump, the Freedom caucus and politics. Although the speech didn’t go so well with many of his Trump-supporting colleagues, not to mention his Freedom caucus colleagues who sat with him on Foreign Affairs, his speech was an instant hit. In the 24 hours after the speech was delivered, an eight-minute video of the speech was replayed over 500,000 times on Youtube and shared over 70,000 times on Facebook. Back at home, although the video was a call to order and united political civility, the video brought to light an unspoken but needed conversation that was being held in the state.

Related image

Governor Haley and then Lt. Governor McMaster embrace after Gov. Haley announces that McMaster will take the open Senate seat vacated by Sen. DeMint's resignation.

In December of 2012, Senator Jim DeMint resigned to join the executive leadership of the Heritage Foundation. Governor Haley appointed Lt. Governor Henry McMaster to the position. In 2016, Senator McMaster would seek a mandate of his own for the first time, delivered by the people of South Carolina. McMaster had been suspected to be a closeted Trump supporter, given how many considered his views to be similar to that of candidate Trump. Harper’s “Tone of America” speech gave a voice to those in the state who were reluctantly Republican in the face of a towering, ominous Trump-like momentum of support that seemed unstoppable. A Draft Harper campaign was in the works, and to be honest, Harper had personally considered seeking higher office at some point in the future as well. But it would be wrong to consider this politically motivated – Draft Harper was a fringe movement of no more than 200 people. Polling showed Senator McMaster’s support to be hovering near 60% with voters, and almost 75% with Republicans in the state. If Harper was to run, he should do so with no honest intention to win. His primary victory was something else for sure, but a Senate seat is a different game altogether. Harper understood that. He didn’t need the name recognition, nor the organizational campaign structure – he had all of that from his first congressional primary upset. What he needed was clarity and closure on the things he addressed in his speech, a feeling that he was doing something to fix it, rather than just addressing it. So, for the second time in his short political career, he took on the beast and suited up in an improbable and unlikely primary challenge.

Tim Harper would run against a popular incumbent Senator, aiming to become the next Senator of Georgia.

A surprisingly good read! 

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Chapter 4: Burnout

Image result for henry McMaster announcement campaign

Senator McMaster announcing that he will seek the Republican nomination for South Carolina's Senate seat.

Senator Jim DeMint’s resignation surprised few who followed his career; DeMint was always talking about wanting to move on to a career more involved in the intricacies of policy. He would find that and more at his new position in the Heritage Foundation. Governor Nikki Haley, who was required to select a successor, had a long list of talented candidates. She had made it months in advance of DeMint’s resignation announcement. Top of the list was the name of an ambitious, promising young politician by the name of Tim Scott. He had made waves across the party by being the first African-American Republican member of the South Carolinian House delegation in 114 years. His charisma was well noted and admired, and plus he had a positive relationship with Nikki Haley.

Then Tim Harper beat Rep. Scott in a primary upset that threw a monkey wrench into Haley’s plans. Instead, Haley nominated her faithful and loyal lieutenant governor, Henry McMaster. When McMaster would be appointed to the Senate in December of 2012, it would cap the height of his decades long political career that started in 1986, when he ran for the open South Carolinian Senate seat, later losing to Fritz Hollings. So, when McMaster was asked if he would take the open Senate seat, he didn’t hesitate before saying yes. It was an emotional moment for the trailblazing young man from Columbia; first in his family to go to college, first in his class and the youngest member of the Editorial Board for the South Carolina Law Review, McMaster was widely seen as a competent and dedicated public servant – not to mention an excellent public speaker. He was also seen as a man of values, someone whose views were guided by their moral compass. With decades of judicial and legal work on his back, McMaster painted himself as the politician of law and order.

When he decided to contest Ken Ard and Bill Connor’s seemingly dominant grasp over the Lieutenant Governor’s race in South Carolina, he used his political reputation of a fair-minded arbiter to his benefit, resonating with the value-oriented voters of South Carolina. He ended up winning with a majority, not even requiring a runoff. The first few years were boring for McMaster, as he found the job surprisingly underwhelming. McMaster had always been ambitious, and he soon found himself coveting the very position that his boss held: the governorship. Nikki Haley knew this and tried to find a way to pacify that slowly intensifying lust. She found her solution by giving McMaster the only thing he wanted more than her job: DeMint’s open Senate seat.

After going to Washington D.C, he would, like Harper, bring with him towering ambitions and hope. Also like Harper, McMaster would soon be reminded that he was only one of hundreds of more experienced parliamentarians who had also come in with expectations, only to be molded into the party line. Unsurprisingly, Washington had changed him. Even with the rise of Trump, McMaster – who many saw as a principled politician – was noticeably reticent even in the face of personal attacks and a level of rhetoric that he found personally abhorrent. Many took his silence to be quiet support, yet they had mistaken his concern for approval. At least toeing the party line came with one thing: job security. He would receive the full support of his colleagues and the national Republican party campaign apparatus. Hell, he had finally achieved the position that he had worked to for almost three decades. At least he would be comfortably re-elected just four years later. Or so he thought.

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Harper announcing that he will contest Henry McMaster in the South Carolinian Republican primary for the Senate.

On the 23rd of October 2015, Tim Harper stood outside facing the windswept city, stuck behind a podium where he would announce his surprise candidacy for the Republican nomination to the 2016 South Carolina Senate race. He had emphasized some key tenets that he would stick to during the campaign. He called for a “race of civility” that elevated policy debate over character flaws. In a 30-minute speech, he pledged to the people of South Carolina that he would engage constantly with people of all backgrounds, bringing the bipartisan spirit of cooperation along with him to the Senate. At this point in his political career, his star had dimmed ever so slightly, his momentum tamed. Political observers were now able to separate the showhorses from the workhorses, and although his politics and foreign policy credentials showed real potential, many considered his work in reconciling the differences between parties to have been an abject failure. Nonetheless, Harper entered the race knowing full well that hypothetical polling placed him at a some 60% deficit with Senator McMaster.

After delivering his speech, Harper returned home and began making some friendly calls to friends in the state. Trey Gowdy, one of his better friends in Congress, had already personally committed to McMaster. Tim Scott, who Harper had now thought a friend, was unable to give a clear answer. After more calls were made, Harper would find out that McMaster had effectively locked up the South Carolinian House delegation, alongside most state representatives and senators. As Harper will now acknowledge, his preparation for his Senate bid was almost nonexistent – he was running on a foundation of momentum that he overestimated in scope.

To make things worse, Harper had misread McMaster completely. McMaster, though a man of values, was a cunning and crafty politician. He had come from a relatively modest upbringing to one of the most powerful offices of state – he would not give that up lightly. McMaster’s values wouldn’t prevent him from engaging in tactical political maneuvers, instead his values of determination and commitment would help him make those maneuvers even more politically lethal. This would all be realized for Harper in McMaster’s first campaign address, hosted in Charleston; the selection of location was no mistake and its implication was as subtle as a sledgehammer. McMaster would be coming for Harper and everything he stood for.

The elephant in the room was Trump. Harper took the first shot, saying that McMaster would simply make half of South Carolina’s Senatorial delegation a blank check for Trump’s policies. It was certainly a bold move, taking on Trump in a Republican primary in the South was not considered the most tactically smart move. Harper expected to take the heat, but he never expected his family to shoulder part of the blame. His daughter, now 15, would be old enough to realize the political implications of her place in the family. School had become difficult for her, not to mention the taunting glares and the invitations to events now rescinded by politically motivated parents in her grade. Harper and his wife had always gone to extra lengths to protect their daughter in school but shielding her from the new level of vitriol only intensified the self-doubt that was now intensely buried into Harper’s mind. The polarizing nature of Trump that Harper would campaign fiercely against had found itself manifested into the Harper household. Harper’s wife now had doubts, not at all soothed with McMaster’s refusal to condemn the divisive nature of politics that the primary was now seeing. Unlike Scott, playing dirty would not be past McMaster.  As a result, Harper limited campaign time with his family and worked to reframe the rest of the campaign as a political one man show.

It was hard for Harper. One month into the race, Harper had gained little ground. He stood at around 15%, significantly lower than anyone would have expected. Of course, there were anti-Trump Republicans in South Carolina: they just weren’t willing to drop someone they knew for decades just because of lingering suspicions. McMaster knew this and wanted to quash any early opposition to his nomination, so he could focus fully on the general election. To do this, McMaster devised what would later be revealed as one of the most nefarious campaign tactics in recent memory. As McMaster campaign advisor Jake Price revealed on NPR last spring:

“…so, yeah, we did this when I was young, starting out my career in campaign strategy. So I was sent to Charleston to make a contribution to Tim Harper in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance. I brought this enormous pickle jar of quarters and pennies and dimes, and then I was supposed to get a receipt, which I brought back and gave my superior. Now, I guess theoretically the idea was they were going to give the receipt to The Post and Courier and that was going to generate a story…”

Generate a story it did. In a week, Harper had hemorrhaged over a third of his support, dropping back into the mid-single digits. His following in Charleston was demolished, and campaign contributions nearly stopped. Harper again hadn’t expected to win the Senate primary but did however expect to win his congressional race in SC-01. The negativity surrounding the primary contest put him in jeopardy for the seat, even though he thankfully didn’t have to fend off a primary challenger for his representative seat. He faced off against Dimtri Cherny, a surprise winner in a competitive Democratic primary field of 6, and internal polling was putting Cherny at less than 5% behind Harper. Harper began to wonder if he had made a mistake; he had never expected McMaster to stoop to such a low level of political skullduggery. Harper had already tried to reassure the press of the lack of involvement by his side of the campaign, but his efforts were to no avail. Permanent damage was done to the campaign. After weeks went by, poll numbers stabilized, and the story was eventually forgotten. For almost three months, well into the new year, Harper suffered nearly an 80% deficit.

Then, the ad.

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Harper delivering what is now famously called "the ad."

Harper was running out of funds. He had just taken another mortgage out on his home and refinanced the ones that he had already taken out. At one point, he had to run solely off IOUs to his staffers and community goodwill to find venues that would host him. Things seemed incredibly dire. Then in February 2016, Harper scrapped together just enough money for one television ad. After haggling with staff members and media personnel over airtime and media markets, Harper decided to go directly to the TV station in person to speak with media staff. What came out was a compromise: Harper would have 1:30 exactly of live TV to with anything he wanted to, except he had to do it himself. On air, live. What came out was an impromptu minute and a half moment of candor, honesty, and clarity. Harper spoke clearly, eloquently, and seemingly with a kind smile as he verbally savaged his opponent’s tactics in subtle, tacit ways. As he walked out of the media room, he was greeted with a round of applause in the control room and soon enough, his poll numbers started rising again. Rising 7% in a month from the ad, more startling was the nearly 15% reduction in McMaster’s numbers. McMaster still had no reason to worry, though. Harper’s ascent was to be expected, and McMaster expected Harper to plateau out at round 30%. But Harper wasn’t done. As it took Harper until March to reach 20%, it would take Harper only until April to reach 35%. Just like his SC-01 primary upset, Harper’s tenacity and commitment showed as he visited every single county in the state on what he called his “Straight Talk Tour.” Harper was joined by influential surrogates on the campaign trail, including his friend Trey Gowdy and Paul Ryan. Even better, Harper enlisted the forces of popular regional names such as Commissioner for Agriculture Hugh Weathers and Treasurer Curtis Loftis.

Soon, Harper saw his fortunes rise to reach 40%. For a brief, short moment it looked like Harper would manage to do the impossible again. His ascent briefly earned him the national nickname, the “Wonderkid.” Indeed, by late May, Harper had been stuck just 4 points behind McMaster in a seemingly heated race. With just three weeks to go and with no end to his train of momentum, Harper looked well poised to secure victory in the primary.

Image result for henry mcmaster campaigningImage result for brian gallant campaigning

Left: Henry McMaster makes a last minute pitch, banking on Trump supporters to come out in full force. Right: Harper throws first pitch at his local little league World Series final.

It was two days before election night, and Harper had seen his poll numbers stagnate for the first time in almost four months. The race was a dead heat between McMaster and Harper with the Associated Press and the New York Times labeling the primary as a “toss-up.” News associations also called the primary one of the most negative in the country, with attack ads swirling on both sides. Harper had given the go-ahead to an ad campaign that targeted McMaster’s past comments on race relations and justice; they would be the first attack ads that he would have ever authorized in his political career. In the meanwhile, McMaster campaigned vigorously with an armada of political celebrities, from Governor Haley to Senator Graham. Harper had invested everything he owned into this race (literally) and he intended to win. Internal polling looked good: Charleston was expected to come in heavy, not to mention a backdrop of support from Berkley that would buffer McMaster votes in the north of the state. Harper was confident, but not assured. When looking at Harper days before an election night, one could notice his tone change. It didn’t waiver, per say, so much as it softened. The one thing Harper hated more than anything else was unpredictability. Again, even though internal polling looked good, the one thing that irked him was that he was headed to an election with almost 13% of respondents saying that they were undeclared. But nonetheless, his team of analysists and pundits told him that he looked good, but that it would be a squeaker.

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Harper seen leaving the ballroom after delivering his concession speech.

As election night came in, Harper, reticent and anxious as he usually was on election night, awaited nervously for the aide to come in with the first series of precinct reports. There was so much bubbling around in his mind that he didn’t even realize what the cheering in the ballroom was for – he had just won his primary back at home in South Carolina’s 1st congressional district. Though it was an unopposed candidacy, it was a win nonetheless. But reporters on the news were too busy talking about the political implications for the Republican party now that Donald Trump had officially won. When the aide finally walked in, he quickly mentally prepared for every contingency that he could think of. When he glazed his eyes over the first series of precinct reports, he furrowed his brow. This was certainly something he hadn’t prepared for. Something was off. More moderately Republican counties, like Greenville, were going hard for McMaster. A similar story was seen over Calhoun and Clarendon. Again and again, precincts returned with formidable majorities for McMaster where Harper should have won. After two hours, the race was called. It looked like McMaster would win, and it didn’t look like a squeaker either. At the end, McMaster would have won by almost 90,000 votes. Harper was incensed as the results kept flowing in. Harper didn’t have a problem losing – he had gone through many a failure during his time in business. But he did have a problem with unexplained failure. Charleston and Berkeley were won by McMaster, in Berkeley’s case overwhelmingly. Those two were counties in Harper’s district. What made Harper even more suspicious was the turnout figures. Depressed turnout figures were seen in Greenville, Berkeley and Charleston. Weather hadn’t been a major factor in the state or in any particular county, and Harper’s get out the vote operation went smoothly. Though he would never make any public assertions, and though he would eventually concede that very night, as future reports of robocalling and misleading pamphlets started to rise, the thought that he had been cheated would linger in his mind and haunt him for years to come.

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Left: Aggregate election result figures for the 2016 South Carolina Republican Senate primary. Right: Regional election result figures.

Of course, McMaster would deny this. And of course, this is all still fully speculative. There is no evidence to suggest McMaster ever cheated in the election, sans a few dirty PR tricks that were still fully within the parameters of the law. Voter suppression was a serious, serious charge and Harper knew that. He didn’t want to contest, despite his close confidants and friends making their best attempts to convince him otherwise. In the end, Harper thought, he had lost anyway. Either he had lost by a true democratic exercise of the process and contesting the election would make him seem like a sore loser, or he had won but was not courageous and determined enough to clinch the win. Either way, it was an embarrassing defeat and one that would make him a more careful political tactician in the future. Like all political failures, Harper’s was humbling and struck just the right amount of contemplation and reflection into him.

Harper had lost, and he would see to it that he would never have to give another concession speech again.

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Historical polling data for the 2016 South Carolina Republican Senate Primary

 

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19 minutes ago, orangecountydem46 said:

when is the next one coming?

Probably  by the end of this weekend -- I have to finish a bit of work back at my job first. I'm glad you like it though!

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