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Mulvaney: We’re ready for the fight, and Trump wins it

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By Emily Pollok

COLUMBIA – Mick Mulvaney, a fixture at the president’s side and on network news programs, came home to South Carolina on Friday to address the state GOP’s annual Silver Elephant Gala.
The acting White House chief of staff, a former 5th District congressman from Indian Land, was flanked by Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham at the event, which drew more than 750 staunch supporters of the Republican Party.

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The three high-profile Republicans took questions from the media before the gala, defending President Trump and criticizing his Democratic opponents.
Mulvaney said he had watched a little of the Democratic Party presidential debates, and noted that while former Vice President Joe Biden may have a lot of friends in South Carolina, none of the Democratic candidates poses a significant threat to the incumbent.
“It’s always interesting to see Democrats when they run for public office,” Mulvaney said. “Anything you want, you can have it for free – that’s been a Democrat talking point since I can remember….
“Elizabeth Warren wants to run on free everything for everybody. We can beat that. Bernie Sanders wants to run on free everything for everybody. We can beat that too, because that’s not what America is.”
Asked about recent Trump remarks perceived as racist attacks on minority members of Congress, Mulvaney said a double standard exists when it comes to Republicans, Democrats and racial politics. He referred to Trump’s tweeting that four minority Democratic congresswomen should “go back” to their countries of origin, even though three are U.S.-born and all are American citizens.
“Here’s what I know,” Mulvaney said. “If a Republican criticizes somebody because of their ideas, people immediately start to look at whether or not they’re doing it because of who they are or where they’re from or what color they are. If a Democrat criticizes that same person, they get treated differently.”
When he addressed the gala crowd, Mulvaney touted the Trump administration’s economic successes, noting that unemployment has been under 4 percent for 16 straight months and that there are more job openings than people looking for jobs.
He said the Democrat Party has undergone a “complete meltdown” in the last couple of years and is not paying attention to what’s happening in the country.
“Everything is up again across the board,” he said. “It’s Make America Great Again Economics, and the Democrats simply refuse to get it.”
During Lindsey Graham’s remarks, the state’s senior U.S. senator expressed his unwavering support for the Trump administration.
“I got off to a rocky start with the president, but we’re all good now. I’ve come to like him, and he likes him, so we’ve got a lot in common,” Graham said.
“I’ll put this man’s presidency up against anybody, including Ronald Reagan,” he added.
Graham also acknowledged Democrat Jaime Harrison, who he is facing in the 2020 Senate race, as the first real Democrat opponent he’s ever had.
Although Graham noted that Harrison raised $1.5 million in one week for his campaign, he told the crowd, “There’s not enough money in the world to beat me in the Senate in South Carolina –because of you.”
Rep. Brandon Newton of Lancaster, who represents S.C. House District 45, attended his party’s gala and said he shares Graham’s confidence regarding the upcoming election, believing the senator will be reelected “easily.”
As for the presidential election, Newton said he thought Trump could secure a second term. “I do think President Trump has a really good shot of being reelected,” he said. “I’ve kind of stopped betting against him.”
Newton supported Mulvaney’s summary of “Make America Great Again Economics,” saying that improvements are especially visible in his home state.
“We see it in South Carolina,” he said. “If it wasn’t for this growth, we wouldn’t be able to freeze college tuition and give teachers a 4 percent raise.”
Democrats reacted to the Friday night comments this week.
Rep. Mandy Powers-Norrell of Lancaster, who represents S.C. House District 44, responded to Mulvaney’s comments on the economy. “It’s an odd time to be touting ‘economic improvements’ after the massive stock market losses of the past several days following China’s retaliation after the job-killing tariffs,” she said.
Keith Grey, the Lancaster County Democratic Party chair, said the Republicans should not get too optimistic about the upcoming elections.
“They make the mistake of confusing votes and money,” he said.
The controversial issue of Trump’s race-related remarks drew different responses from local political figures.
“Honestly, I try to stay away from President Trump’s tweets,” Newton said. “I’ll let him and his lieutenants defend those.”
According to Grey, Trump’s words speak for themselves. “If it walks like a racist and talks like a racist, then guess what?” he said.

Follow Emily Pollok on Twitter @PollokEmily or contact her at (803) 283-1155.