S.C. Statehouse Report
July 11, 2004
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/04.0711.kerry.htm

EDITOR'S NOTE: The mainstream media finally woke up yesterday (Post and Courier, 7/10) to the story we broke two weeks ago on how the Palmetto Bowl might be in trouble because of the Confederate flag flying on the Statehouse grounds.

With Edwards on ticket, Kerry could win
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

JULY 11, 2004 - - All it takes for any Democratic presidential candidate these days to win is to take two Southern states. It can be any two, but without at least some wins in the South, the Democrat will lose every time.

Republicans know this. For years, Democrats seemed to treat the South as a stepchild - - even when Southerners Bill Clinton and Al Gore topped the ticket in the 1990s. It's more evident in Gore's 2000 campaign when he didn't even win his home state of Tennessee. (If he had, he'd be president, despite the results in Florida.)

Unlike many Democrats sitting in leadership positions in Washington, it looks like presidential contender John Kerry has figured out the South is a key to victory. Instead of ceding it to Republicans, he picked strong campaigner John Edwards to be his running mate.

Election wins by state
(in the 11 Southern states)







As one South Carolina Republican analyst said this week, Kerry's pick of Edwards shows he's "got his eye on the prize."

Starting in the late 1960s, Richard Nixon mounted an offensive, called the "Southern strategy" to win the nation's top job by splitting up the Solid South, which had been Democratic territory for years.

As U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. explained in a November 2003 article in The Nation, "Republicans have successfully exploited race (in proportion to black voting strength) since Richard Nixon's 'Southern strategy' of 1968 by, among other things, using racial code words: Nixon's 'law and order,' Reagan's 'state's rights' and 'welfare queen,' and the first George Bush's 'Willie Horton.'"

It mostly worked. Republicans swept the South in 1972. Democrat Jimmy Carter, who paid attention to his roots, won every state except Virginia in 1976. The tables flipped in 1980 when Republican Ronald Reagan won every state in the South except Carter's Georgia.

In 1984 and 1988, Republicans won every Southern state. In 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton carried Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee. Four years later, he also carried Florida, but lost Georgia.


McLEMORE'S WORLD: Taking the temperature

SCORECARD: Winners and losers of the past week



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In 2000, George W. Bush won all Southern states, but only by slim margins in Florida (a few hundred votes), Arkansas (51 percent), Tennessee (51 percent) and Louisiana (52 percent).

So with Kerry picking Edwards, more focus is being put on the South, particularly in states where Democrats have shown they can win - - Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Florida. And with Edwards being from North Carolina, polls show the Tarheel State is a dead heat. If Kerry wins any two of these, he likely will win the big prize.

What it means for President Bush is that he'll have to work harder in the South and, potentially, to divert resources from battleground states to hold onto his lead. If that happens, it could spell doom for the sitting president. (We hear Bush already is buying ads in North Carolina. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate won there was 1976.)

A good indicator about how Bush is doing will be whether he campaigns in South Carolina - - a rock-solid Bush state. If he comes here, it may show how concerned the campaign is about keeping power.

For Kerry, the upside of picking Edwards is that he's a proven vote-getter in the South and he appeals to white, working-class male voters, who generally are thought to be "owned" by the GOP.

But there's a downside too. Because Edwards is a trial lawyer, business forces - - notably the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - - plan to come out with all guns blazing to raise money to re-elect Bush.

While that may seem like a viable threat, Kerry has shown he can raise money too. And at some point, there are only so many TV ads candidates can buy.

Look for the 2004 election to be hot, heavy and filled with rhetorical invective. It won't be a pretty piece of American history - - but elections rarely are.

7/11: Taking the temperature

This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:


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Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

Tenenbaum. While SC likely will be won by President Bush in the fall, the big winner of the week was Inez Tenenbaum, whose U.S. Senate campaign likely will benefit from John Edwards being on the Democratic ticket.

Gregory, Knotts. Hats off to Republican S.C. Sens. Greg Gregory and Jakie Knotts for calling for a SLED investigation of a contract award for voting machines by the State Election Commission.

DHEC. It's good news the state agency will try to broker a deal between business and environmental interests to protect isolated wetlands.

Thumbs down

Sanford. Publicity stunts (Gov. Sanford moving into the pool house at the mansion while it is cleaned for mold) are running thin.

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