But Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the state’s Republican presidential primary, her ban on political talk did not matter one bit. No one had found a candidate they liked enough to argue for.
From country restaurants like this one to suburban shopping malls in Spartanburg and espresso bars in Greenville, voters facing four options in the Republican primary seemed to shrug and say, “I haven’t decided.”
Polls, which have Newt Gingrich gaining ground on Mitt Romney while Ron Paul and Rick Santorum battle for third place, do not always reflect what is happening on the ground, particularly in a region that has emerged as a coveted electoral battleground.
Thursday’s debate swung some undecided voters from one camp to another and back again. A relentless barrage of political ads only added to the confusion. Thus, in a state known for its fickle, independent political nature, people appear to be waiting until they step into a voting both to decide.
“I said I was going to vote for Newt, but now I don’t know,” said Kathy Matasavage, 53, who moved here nine years ago and waits tables at Grits and Groceries. “All of these ads and debates are just so negative. You think you have your mind made up, and then there is craziness and more craziness.”
Thursday’s debate, which pivoted partly around demands that Mr. Romney release his tax returns and accusations by one of Mr. Gingrich’s former wives that he had asked for an open marriage, had an effect.
Kim Raines, 35, who was shearing a schnauzer named Dickens at a pet grooming shop in Spartanburg, was all set to vote for Mr. Gingrich until she heard part of an interview with his second wife, Marianne Gingrich, that was shown Thursday after the debate.
“I’m a cheated-on woman, so Newt getting in that scandal was a big thing to me,” she said. So now Ms. Raines, who has two children, is leaning toward Mr. Romney because he seems more of a leader.
Conversely, the interview and Mr. Gingrich’s combative response to questions about his marital past pushed C. W. Harris, a life insurance salesman in Greenville, into the Gingrich camp. “The more they attack Newt, the more I want to support him,” he said.
The issue of Mr. Romney’s wealth, how he got it and whether he should release his tax returns seemed to have less resonance with some voters.
At a small debate viewing party in Greer on Thursday night filled with people supporting different candidates, no one said that seeing Mr. Romney’s tax returns would make a difference. Nor did they care that he made millions as head of the private equity firm Bain Capital, which his opponents claim ruined lives by closing companies.
“It doesn’t bother me that he is wealthy,” said Linda Tapp, 65, a retired medical office worker. “That tells me he knows how to handle finances.”
To be sure, some voters know exactly what they want. Patricia Seiber, a school secretary, will vote for Mr. Santorum. “I have 5 sons and 17 grandchildren, and we are all for him,” she said.