Mike Campbell, son of former Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell, is turning up the heat on Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, a fellow Republican.
At issue is Bauer’s recent trade mission to Cuba. There, Bauer and others signed an agreement with Fidel Castro’s regime for the export of $10 million of S.C. agriculture products.
Campbell, a potential challenger for Bauer’s job in 2006, opposed the deal, saying so in a newspaper column.
Now, Campbell has taken his opposition to a new level. He has hired a highly respected Republican pollster to tap the sentiment of South Carolinians on the issue. What he found was that a plurality of voters — 47 percent — disapprove of the $10 million agreement; only 29 percent support the deal.
That opposition crossed over political, racial and gender boundaries. A plurality of Republicans, Democrats and independents; whites and blacks; men and women opposed the deal, according to the survey conducted by McLaughlin and Associates. The poll of 400 likely voters was taken Feb. 25-29. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Even farm households, who would benefit the most from the agreement, were split down the middle ó 33 percent supporting the deal and 33 percent opposing.
“It is clear from these numbers that this deal was a mistake for Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer,” said John McLaughlin, president of the polling firm.
Campbell paid for the statewide survey. Such surveys cost roughly $10,000 on average.
Bauer was accompanied on the January trip by state Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Sharpe and state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston. The mission had the blessing of Gov. Mark Sanford, another Republican.
Campbell said he knows a lot of people will say the poll that he commissioned is politically motivated, that he’s posturing to run against Bauer for lieutenant governor.
“I have made no decision to run,” Campbell said. “But whether I do or don’t, I still would have done this because I felt so strongly about it. Someone needed to stand up and raise the awareness about this deal so we can stop it before it ever goes anywhere. ... We don’t need to lower ourselves to deal with some communist dictator.”
Bauer accused Campbell of trying to turn the issue into a “political football.”
“I think he would have a hard time explaining to the farmers why we shouldn’t be selling South Carolina goods to Cuba,” he said.
Bauer said he was “not going to try to guess” who he’d be running against in two years.
But, of Campbell’s poll, he said, “I’m sure he has good intentions. What they are I have no idea.”
He then added, “I don’t do polls to be a leader.”
The McLaughlin survey found a majority of voters are opposed to South Carolina doing business with a communist dictator like Castro, regardless of the economic benefits.
Castro is known to enter into trade agreements to put pressure on the United States to end its embargo of Cuba.
In return for the trade deal, Bauer and Sharpe agreed to urge the state’s congressional delegation to support lifting the trade embargo against the island nation of 11 million people.
Three years ago, the United States loosened its 42-year-old embargo on trading with Cuba, allowing the shipment of food, agricultural goods and medicine.
At least 34 states now export to Cuba, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a nonprofit group that provides research for U.S. businesses wanting to trade with Cuba.
But the Bush administration opposes lifting completely the embargo of the communist nation.
Campbell says he will press on with his fight until the S.C.-Cuba deal is shelved.