"The most important reason I like Bush is the tax cut," Gayle Miles of Sumter said as she awaited Bush's arrival. "The middle and upper classes get the hardest hit.
"The more you make, the more they take."
And despite the polls indicating rising support for McCain, some who came to hear Bush speak expressed misgivings about the Arizona senator.
"McCain leans liberal," said John Jashinsky, a Sumter retiree. "He calls himself a Republican, but he's not really."
Said Will Crosby, "McCain worries me a little bit -- all his talk of rocking the boat and all."
Bush tried to play on those sentiments, stressing the word "conservative" on the stump while linking McCain to the Democrats.
"He's a Republican, no question about it, but he came at me from the left in New Hampshire, and it paid off," Bush said. "We'll see how it pays off in the state of South Carolina."
Bush appeared defensive about McCain's attacks on the Texas governor's economic proposals, in which McCain claims Bush would neglect Social Security.
In fact, Bush's proposal would set aside the entire Social Security surplus, projected at $2 trillion, to pay down the federal debt and shore up the nation's ability to pay Social Security benefits. The non-Social Security surplus would go almost exclusively to a tax cut that could be worth more than $1 trillion over 10 years.
McCain has also proposed roping off the Social Security surplus. But he would also reserve 62 percent of the non-Social Security surplus for that purpose as well. And the senator has argued repeatedly that Bush would not "save a dime" for Social Security.
Bush called that assertion "Washington-style politics."
Seeking to undercut McCain's oft-repeated pledge to always tell the truth, he said: "The definition of Washington-style politics is somebody who says, `I'm going to run a different kind of campaign,' and then doesn't lay out the record the way it is."
Sun staff writer Ellen Gamerman contributed to this article.
Pub Date: 2/04/00