Offbeat: South Carolina voters unconcerned by Trump talk on tariffs, impact on state

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GREENVILLE, S.C. — President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs and their potential impact on South Carolina manufacturing were on the minds of some voters who cast their ballots for Henry McMaster in Tuesday’s runoff elections.

But while McMaster got Trump’s endorsement and supports his policies, voters had mixed feelings about tariffs.

Martin Raffel of Greenville said he voted for McMaster because “he’s given us a good administration and reasons to follow the president, positive reasons.”

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A big supporter of Trump, he’s not a fan of the tariffs, saying it’s the only issue he disagrees with Trump and McMaster on.

“I’m concerned about the tariffs. This is the same kind of thing that led to the Great Depression of the 1920s and '30s,” he said. “And I’m worried about how it could affect the economy and the country. We can’t afford to go into another Depression.

“So it’s a struggle that countries have to get together on and they have to make decisions and come to a compromise.”

Aaron Corley of Taylors said he chose McMaster because Trump supported him.

A BMW employee, Corley said he wasn’t concerned about the potential impact of Trump’s tariffs on the auto industry or possible retaliatory moves by Germany in response, even though Harley-Davidson this week announced it would be moving some of its production overseas because of the tariffs.

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“I work at BMW, and I haven’t seen any slowdown,” he said, adding that Harley-Davidson's action was premature.

“They’re the ones who jumped ship. You’re looking at a $50,000-$60,000 motorcycle. I think they can afford it. They should have waited a little longer. They chose not to,” he said.

“But when all is said and done, everything will equal out in the end,” he added. “I’m not worried at all.”

(Slideshow by Photo Services)

In Berea, Gregory Jackson said he voted for McMaster because the governor is a big supporter of Trump and his policies, including gun rights and opposing abortion.

Charles and Wanda Whitlock agreed.

“He backed the president and president backed him,” Charles Whitlock said.

“We’re for Donald Trump and the ones who support him,” Wanda Whitlock said. “McMaster stands behind the president.”

None of the three were worried about the impact of the tariffs here at home, which played no role in how they voted.

“It’s about time we got someone in there who got tough with foreign countries,” Wanda Whitlock said.

“They (other countries) will blow up and then after awhile they’ll come around to his way of thinking,” Charles Whitlock said.

At nearby Monaview Elementary School in Berea, where voting was fairly steady all day, Dean and Dana Phillips wore patriotic T-shirts to the polls.

Both are avid Trump supporters but went for Warren because he’s “new blood,” “younger" and “fresher.” While they said they came “that close” to voting for McMaster because of Trump’s endorsement, they voted for the person they felt would do the best job.

Neither of them said they were concerned about the tariffs and their potential impact on BMW, consumer prices or other issues.

“I could care less about the tariffs,” Dean Phillips said. “Many of the BMW employees are out-of-towners anyway, and out-of-country. We need American companies.”

BMW employs 10,000 people at its Greer manufacturing plant, and last year produced more than 370,000 vehicles there. The manufacturing plant also has a significant supply network in the state and the company's annual impact on South Carolina's economy exceeds $16 billion a year, according to a 2014 report from the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.

Shirley Spencer said she was almost persuaded by Trump’s endorsement to vote for McMaster but voted for Warren in the end to get change, saying the people of South Carolina know more about state issues than Trump.

And even though her son works at BMW, Spencer said her vote wasn’t influenced by the tariffs.

“If other countries aren’t paying their fair share, then they need to,” she said. “You’ve just got to hope and pray it will all work out for the good.”

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