As part of RedState's South Carolina Primary Coverage this week, I attended a presidential forum on Wednesday night put on by the Faith & Freedom Coalition and First Baptist Church of North Spartanburg, which featured both Senator Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson, as well as representatives for other campaigns. While most of the evening was spent talking about faith in politics and the future of religious freedom in America, several speakers took time out to address personal attacks. Interestingly, they condemned them.
I say interestingly because, if you've been watching the South Carolina Primary, or get the campaign emails, or even just watched the debate, there have been countless personal attacks, from calling one another liars to Trump calling people unstable, accusations of misconduct, fake threats of frivolous lawsuits ... candidates are calling into question the character of the other candidates at every turn.
Sen. Marco Rubio was not at the event, but Sen. Tim Scott was there on his behalf. Speaking with the press after his remarks, Sen. Scott said that the infighting of the campaign season has been good practice for the general election.
"I would suggest, however," said Scott, "that personal attacks does not benefit the country, doesn't benefit the party, doesn't benefit anybody."
"Focusing on the contrast between candidates, legitimate," he continued. "Making it personal? That does not bode well for the electorate."
He was not the only one. The nature of personal attacks was discussed on stage during the Q&A with the church's Senior Pastor Dr. Mike Hamlet. During his time on stage, Sen. Ted Cruz stated likewise that the personal attacks should not be part of the primary campaign. However, Cruz went on to note that it's a tough and somewhat surprising situation at a debate when, in his words, he would attack a policy position and the response would be everyone yelling "liar" at him.
I'm sure at this point, after the campaign by Trump and the debate high jinks by ... well everyone, but especially Chris Christie, and with the, in my opinion, fairly unhinged behavior of die-hard supporters of every candidate, it's no wonder the good guys (Cruz, Rubio, and Carson) feel surrounded and attacked. I guarantee I'd be lashing out. Guarantee.
In any case, the idea is that the candidates don't like the personal attacks. You may or may not take that with the grain of salt that perhaps they really only dislike the ones against them.
As for the rest of the forum, it focused heavily on the prospects for Christian faith in the future in America, and especially in light of things like gay marriage. A particularly provocative question, and one that is clearly on the minds of the faithful in South Carolina, is whether we are on a road to the Bible being seen as hate speech, or preaching being treated as a hate crime. It is by no means far-fetched, and the audience reaction shows it's at the forefront of at least the religiously political here in the south.
We'll have more on this topic later today. The 2,200 or so person event might be very under-reported in light of the subsequent CNN Town Hall. But there was plenty at the forum to discuss.