Jewish World Review Sept. 5, 2003 / 8 Elul, 5763
Fresh tombstones in the graveyard of broken dreams
By the time the South Carolina Democratic primary is over on the evening of Feb. 3, there is going to be blood on the floor and fresh tombstones in the graveyard of broken dreams.
There are currently nine Democrats running for president a tenth may jump in soon but after South Carolina, the number of viable candidates is going to be smaller. Maybe much smaller. Some candidates may limp along because they still have some bucks left, but they will be dead behind the eyes.
There are other primaries the same day, but they will not be watched like South Carolina will be.
There are important primaries to follow, but not all the candidates will be around to enter them.
The battle plan is simple: If former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean really does pull off an amazing double-win in the first two contests, Iowa and New Hampshire, then South Carolina is where anti-Dean forces must coalesce around one candidate to stop him from getting the nomination. U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who once upon a time was a front-runner, is now hoping he can be the stopper here. Kerry once had a Northern strategy: win New Hampshire and possibly Iowa.
Now he has a Southern strategy: Stop Howard Dean in South Carolina, and keep hope alive.
Which is why Kerry gave his presidential announcement speech here this week, in front of the USS Yorktown, rather than in Boston, in front of Old Ironsides, as originally planned.
"Kerry is announcing here because South Carolina is now Kerry's firewall," a prominent South Carolina Democrat said. "If he loses New Hampshire, he has to win here or he's through."
South Carolina has a high percentage of veterans living here, which is the good news for Kerry, who has made his service in Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign.
The bad news is that most of those veterans vote Republican. (John McCain was depending on their votes in 2000, but George W. Bush still beat him here.) True, they could easily vote in the Democratic primary for Kerry there is no party registration in South Carolina but will they?
And Kerry's emphasis on his Vietnam service is a high-risk strategy. Americans are still very conflicted over that war, as was Kerry himself: He both fought in the war and protested against it.
And being a war hero is not what is used to be in American politics: Bill Clinton, who dodged the Vietnam draft, faced off against two war heroes, George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996, and beat them both.
Besides, there are other candidates who have their own reasons for believing they will win South Carolina and be anointed as the man to battle Dean for the nomination:
Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt is popular with black voters here, and the black vote is expected to be anywhere from 40 percent to 50 percent of the total primary vote.
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is popular with fundamentalist Christians here, and they represent a powerful force in state politics. Yes, he is Jewish, but they like it when he talks about his personal relationship with God and moral values.
North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was born here before moving one state north, he appeals to Southern pride and points out that the last two Democratic presidents (Clinton and Jimmy Carter) both came from the South. Some candidates view South Carolina as a firewall, a place to halt their losses. Others view it as a starting point, a place to really jumpstart their campaigns.
Either way, however, somebody has to be disappointed after the sun sets on Feb. 3.
And not everybody is getting out of here alive.
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