With the South Carolina Republican primary fast-approaching, the remaining candidates are making one last push to make their case with potential voters.
On Saturday, six candidates, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio participated in a forum on expanding opportunity hosted by the Jack Kemp Foundation at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. With South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and House Speaker Paul Ryan serving as moderators, the six candidates were able to discuss poverty and economic policy, particularly how those issues are affecting Americans and how they plan to approach some of those issues.
Several of the candidates, including Dr. Carson speaking from his own experience, highlighted an increased focus on education to combat poverty.
"The person that has the most do with what happens to you in life is you.” Carson said. “It’s not somebody else; it’s not the environment. And once I understood that, poverty didn’t bother me anymore because I knew I had the ability to change it myself. Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to help each other escape from it, no question about that, and that’s one reason why my wife and I have put these reading rooms all over the country.”
Even former candidate and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham made an appearance at the forum, making light of the recent suspension of his campaign and how he was one of the few candidates that never got to participate in the large primetime debates.
“I finally made it on the big stage!” Graham said. “The bad news for you is I’ve got four hours of unused time.”
The forum’s vibes were not all feel-good however, as CNN captured footage of protestors heckling Rubio about his immigration views. The protestors insinuated that Rubio, whose platform incorporates his heritage as the son of Cuban immigrants that made the American dream possible for him, does not represent the Hispanic community.
The CNN footage shows small groups of protestors standing and chanting: “Undocumented and unafraid.” Other protestors held signs saying, “Rubio wants to deport me!” Security removed the protestors and after, Rubio reaffirmed his views on immigration.
“We're going to enforce our immigration laws, guys,” Rubio said.
The elephant in the room for many was the absence of front-runner Donald Trump, who held a rally at the Winthrop University Coliseum in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Friday night. According to RealClear Politics, Trump is polling at 34 percent nationally, 13.3 percentage points ahead of second-place Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. In the state of South Carolina, RealClear records Trump polling at 33 percent, with Cruz at 22 percent and Rubio in third place at 12 percent.
After visits to the Upstate and the Midlands, many of the candidates will head toward the coast in the coming days, in preparation for the Fox Business Network Debate in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Thursday.
According to P2016, Republican candidates (excluding Graham) have visited the state a total of 204 times since 2013, encompassing a combined total of 271 days.
The South Carolina Republican primary will take place on Saturday, Feb. 20, following the Iowa Caucus on Feb. 1 and the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9.