Forget running against President Barack Obama. Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer wants to make the GOP's June 8 primary for governor a referendum on the state's poor.
Bauer and his supporters say his recent comments — comparing the poor to "stray animals" in January and calling some "flat-out lazy" last month — simply express his deeply held convictions about the value of hard work.
His critics, however, say Bauer is running a campaign that Lee Atwater — the legendary, divisive S.C. Republican operative — would appreciate.
Their concern? Bauer is running in the Republican primary, an overwhelmingly white affair, and, in South Carolina's political discourse, "poor" is often code for "black." So by ripping the poor, critics say, Bauer really is cheer-leading for minority bashing.
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Bauer's comments have some fuming. Fortunately for Bauer, most are Democrats.
His rivals for the GOP's nomination for governor — U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett of Westminster, state Rep. Nikki Haley of Lexington and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster of Columbia — are more intent on turning their primary into a referendum on who is most anti-Obama.
As a result, Bauer's comments about the poor make him stand out.
And they also make him a target.
"He ... has no idea what it's like to be denied anything," says state Rep. Leon Howard, D-Richland, who owns a Columbia salvage yard business and is a past chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. "People like that, whom the privilege of white skin will always afford an advantage, think all you have to do is be willing to work.
"It's not always that way."
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