The response of the lobbyist-filled audience to the amnesty question raised eyebrows among many on the right. Representatives Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and Tim Meadows (R-NC) both commented on the affair, noting that it was highly uncharacteristic of the people they represented to voice support for illegal immigration the way they did on Saturday night.
“‘It doesn’t represent the voters of South Carolina,' Duncan said. ‘Definitely, the room was stacked for Rubio—there’s no doubt about it, especially from where I was sitting. But look, I thought Ted Cruz had a great night and I thought he made a great point about the economy and about how he’d unleash an unbridled entrepreneurial spirit with less taxes and less regulation.'
When asked if the party was trying to game the system to help the establishment candidates like Rubio and Bush, Duncan said ‘yeah' but added that it probably won’t work, since most of the audience were donors imported into the state by party bosses. ‘It depends on how it came across on TV,' Duncan said. ‘This is a small smattering of folks, and most of them are not from South Carolina. I don’t think Donald Trump had a great debate—he came across to a South Carolina audience as a little brash.'
Meadows added that he thinks the debate lacked focus on issues that people from Main Street—not from K Street or Wall Street, like the donor class—care about. Meadows said:
Obviously it was a fairly contentious debate as you start to see that, the feathers were flying so to speak. I think what most people want us to focus on are what’s going on on Main Street and what’s the key there. Being able to address those policy concerns, obviously it felt like Sen. Cruz had a very strong night tonight as he was able to articulate not only on national security but the economy as well—two things that affect not only the people of South Carolina but also my state of North Carolina and across the country.
Meadows added that the support for amnesty on display in the donor-packed audience this evening wasn’t just counter to South Carolina or North Carolina values, but run counter to American values.
‘I can tell you from an amnesty standpoint, that’s not a South Carolina value, that’s not a North Carolina value—it’s really not a value that most people across the country support,' Meadows said. ‘I can tell you that no matter where you are on the immigration issue, ‘amnesty’ is that word that quite turns most people the other way. So I was surprised to hear some of the clapping as it related to that, perhaps an uninformed clap.'
Meadows also said that he doesn’t think an audience of ordinary people on Main Street would have applauded amnesty plans from Rubio and Bush while booing Trump and Cruz being against amnesty, as happened in the audience this evening.
‘It’s hard to say—I can tell you that when you go on Main Street and you’re not at a debate, the amount of applause you got to hear on different topics doesn’t necessarily correspond to what you heard in the auditorium tonight,' Meadows said.”