Man Without Qualities

Thursday, January 08, 2004

South Carolina

It's odd the way in so many election cycles South Carolina gets so little attention until right after the New Hampshire primary, when the media suddenly stumble on the fact that South Carolina is hugely important.

South Carolina is especially important this time, because of its key significance to Wesley Clark and John Edwards. Edwards, most people seem to think, never grew that big, has shrunk a lot, and is shriveling fast all over. But his showing in South Carolina could make or break him entirely.

More importantly, a Wesley Clark strength is supposed to be his ability to garner Southern votes - in the manner of Bill Clinton. He's from the South and he has that military resume, which is supposed to play well in the South. (Personally, I believe Southerners are perfectly capable of distinguishing one kind of military resume from another, but that's not central to this post.) If Wesley Clark does relatively well in New Hampshire, where does he go then? South Carolina will become suddenly key - again. In South Carolina Wesley Clark should be doing very well indeed among Democrats.

Howard Dean, on the other hand, should not be playing well at all in South Carolina. Too Ivy League. Too flakey. No military. Too Northern.

But it isn't polling that way at the moment:

A 19 percentage-point increase in awareness and a 14 percentage-point increase in favorability over the past month have placed Howard Dean in front of what continues to be a competitive field of Democratic candidates in South Carolina according to a survey by the American Research Group. Dean leads in ballot preference with 16% and is followed by Wesley Clark at 12%, Al Sharpton at 12%, and John Edwards at 11%.

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