Sunday, April 22, 2007
Blue debate in red state offers challenges for candidates
APRIL 22, 2007 - - Pity the poor Democratic presidential
candidates who show up in Orangeburg to wrestle with the press
and South Carolina political issues.
They don't have an easy job. Just about every issue they're
likely to be hit with is fraught with danger - a misstep here,
a soundbite off there could tar them as a (gasp!) liberal
and cause campaigns to spin out of control.
Just look at the issues likely to arise during the nationally-televised
debate at S.C. State University:
Gun control. After the tragic shootings at Virginia
Tech, one of the first questions out of the gate likely will
be about how candidates would reduce gun violence. In South
Carolina, with its outdoor traditions and fierce independence,
any talk of limiting guns may be certain political death.
The number one issue nationally, the Iraq War will get serious
attention by listeners, although candidates have a lot of
experience in dealing with their views.
Confederate flag. Now that USC Gamecock Coach Steve
Spurrier reawakened talk recently about the Confederate flag
on the Statehouse grounds, candidates surely will be asked
about it. Answers from Democratic contenders will polarize
the state's electorate and may steer moderates away.
Nuclear waste. Since South Carolina has been a longtime
home to high-level and low-level nuclear waste, the issue
of waste disposal may arise, especially since state lawmakers
sent a new message recently that they won't keep taking most
other states' low-level waste.
Education. Probably the number two issue nationally,
South Carolina's terminally low education rankings may thrust
the spotlight on some things being done well, such as tough
standards, and things that are lacking. Examples: The abysmal
response to improving education in the so-called Corridor
of Shame counties and the lack of more expansive offerings
for early childhood education.
Cigarettes and health. With the state still having
the lowest-in-the-nation tax on cigarettes, there might be
questions about what candidates would do to improve the nation's
health and its struggling health care system.
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Abortion. Recent efforts to force women who want abortions
to view ultrasounds died in the Statehouse, but South Carolina
remains a hotbed of zealous ideologues on abortion. And combined
with the U.S. Supreme Court's fresh ruling allowing partial-birth
abortions, the issue surely will raise its head during the
Payday lending. Because the payday loan industry with
1,100 offices around the state can offer loans with interest
rates that can be up to 390 percent, candidates may find themselves
under the gun about what they would do to resolve predatory
Other issues that could come up might highlight the state's
coastal insurance crisis, poverty, high incarceration rate,
violent crime and offshore oil/gas exploration.
If you watch this first debate of the 2008 political season,
however, step back a little and listen to a larger message.
We'll be watching to see which candidate triangulates (Clinton?),
speaks from the heart (Edwards?), strives for America to do
better (Obama?) or is comfortable and homey under the media
glare (Richardson?). We'll listen for scrappy realism (Biden?
Dodd?) and how the long shots (Kucinich? Gravel?) are trying
to impact the campaign agenda.
By stepping back and listening larger, you might be surprised.
You might find your candidate for president. Or, you could
just wait a couple of months for the big GOP debate and go
through the same exercise.
You can reach Andy Brack, publisher of
SC Statehouse Report, at email@example.com.
Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:
4/15: Great piece
To the editor:
The piece about what's in the news was first rate. [Commentary,
How do we make it happen?
-- Pat Jobe, Greenville, SC
- 4/4: SC
should take head out of sand, Daniel Berler, Mount
- 4/3: Don't
condemn people for choices, Elizabeth S. Bunker,
Fountain Inn, SC.
- 4/2: Sanford
would be good veep, Terry L. Bowyer, Lyman, SC
- 3/26: House
off-base on ultrasound vote, Ree Mallison, West Columbia,
- 3/25: Condemns
abortion, George W. Dargen, Darlington, SC
- 3/20: Payday
lending is sought-after service, Ken Compton, Spartanburg,
- 3/16: SC
on track to becoming nuclear chump, Leslie Minerd,
- 3/16: Everybody
loses with payday lending, Earl Capps, Summerville,
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