Photos by Craig Hudson. A big thanks to Karoli for making them into a video.
Charleston, South Carolina is filled with beautiful people. When strangers walk past each other on the sidewalk they say hello. Men hold doors for women. At a crowded Starbucks the two most common words were "please" and "excuse me."
But that Southern decorum is contrasted by Charleston’s dark side. This is where at Fort Sumter the Civil War started. Even today, it can resemble a segregated city.
This dichotomy makes it a fitting place for a Republican party to showcase candidates as they struggle to find one that is presentable to the general public on the outside, but not too sinister on the inside.
On Friday, every contender for the Republican presidential nomination made a speech near Charleston, South Carolina. They’re competing for the state that has picked the eventual Republican nominee since 1980.
On Friday morning, Newt Gingrich was holding a slim lead over Mitt Romney. He had fought hard in the debate on Thursday to overcome allegations he had asked his second wife for an open marriage. And Romney’s decision not to release his tax returns until April gave even Rick Santorum and Ron Paul the feeling they had an opportunity to win South Carolina.
At 10 am on Friday at a large, hangar at the Charleston airport, Ron Paul came out from behind a curtain to a young woman’s cheer of “You’re the greatest!” The small crowd made the space feel empty.
“Quite frankly I feel pretty good about last night,” said Paul, on his debate performance. During his speech he bashed entitlement programs, promised a trillion in cuts to the federal budget and proclaimed the current government is “murdering our civil liberties.”
As he was leaving I asked him why he wasn’t running as a Libertarian, as he did in 1988, he snarled, “I’m a Republican.”
I left the hangar and headed downtown for the Stephen Colbert and Herman Cain rally at the College of Charleston. Colbert is a native son of Charleston.
A crowd of over 1,000 people had turned out to the shady courtyard dotted with oaks covered in Spanish moss. Colbert had a marching band and a gospel choir introduce him.
“It’s good to be back home,” said Colbert, “I hope this doesn’t turn into an occupation, but if it does, you’ll all be pepper sprayed very politely. We are in Charleston.”
He welcomed “the most beautiful people in the world” and then Herman Cain, “the man we’ve all gathered here to introduce me.” Cain was in top form. He has become a character of the character he created. He quoted Pokemon, sang, and endorsed we the people for president.
Colbert said to vote for Cain, because “Cain is me.”
After the rally, Dominique Awis, a College of Charleston student, said she was helping to mobilize students to vote for Cain tomorrow. She said most of the people she knew were going to vote for Cain.
Colbert drew easily the largest crowd of the day. He brought Cain because Cain will be on the ballot, while Colbert missed the window to register as a candidate.
“He’s making a whole mockery of the system,” said Ryan “The Bull” Johnson, a Charleston resident. “No one cares about the actual process, but throw a celebrity in and people want to be a part of it.”