Just one day away from the South Carolina GOP primary, it looks as though the big winner will be Vice President Al Gore. It’s surely no secret that the Democratic front-runner wants most of all to run against a damaged George W. Bush, and it’s beginning to look as though that’s just what he’ll get.
Just one day away from the South Carolina GOP primary, it looks as
though the big winner will be Vice President Al Gore. It’s surely no
secret that the Democratic front-runner wants most of all to run against
a damaged George W. Bush, and it’s beginning to look as though that’s
just what he’ll get.
Bush emerged as a relatively easy winner within a South Carolina
Republican party dominated by the Religious Right, which listens to the
Rev. Pat Robertson, reveres Strom Thurmond, sees nothing bigoted (or
even comical) about Bob Jones University and probably secretly thinks
the Confederate flag should fly over every state capitol.
Bush couldn’t get the state’s conservatives (who are the GOP’s
overwhelming majority) to go for him and his once-professed ’big tent’
inclusionary, compassionate-conservative image of the Republican Party
He had to convince them that he’s just like them - and it seems to have
As arch-conservative Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, put
it, the compassionate conservative became ’the cut-throat conservative,’
with a campaign that seems ’tired and surly.’ Bush billed himself, in
full flight from John McCain’s victory in New Hampshire, as the
candidate of ’Reform that Works.’
But the only reforms he seemed to espouse were swifter executions and
lower taxes - popular, to be sure, but hardly the inclusionary vision of
If George W. Bush wants to attract moderate Republicans, Democrats and
independents in November, then his public relations strategy seems to
have been all wrong. The odds seem now to favor him for the Republican
nomination, assuming he can keep the party establishment hostile to and
threatened by Sen. McCain. He must, in addition, keep himself the
darling of the hard-core Right - all the while raising another dollars
50 million or so in the soft money he purports to despise. But that’s
not the image needed to win over a prosperous, increasingly moderate
electorate in November.
Al Gore, after all, is ably staking out the middle ground, where
elections are won. As Democratic candidates from JFK to Bill Clinton
have demonstrated, if the country thinks you’re out there on the fringe,
you lose. And Bob Jones, Pat Robertson and the Confederate flag are
hardly the warm, fuzzy, centrist images that win elections. The South
Carolina Republican primary isn’t New York or California - it isn’t even
Florida, New England, the Northwest or North Carolina.
The Gore/Gephardt/Daschle Democrats smell victory. The last candidate
they want to run against is a truth-telling reformer like John
And since television makes every primary national, South Carolina may
turn out to be Bush’s tar baby.