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GOP primaries

Posted: December 27, 2011 10:38 a.m.
Updated: December 28, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Less than four weeks remain before Kershaw County Republicans will join their counterparts across the state in casting their ballots to help determine which of the GOP candidates will advance to challenge President Obama in November. While national publicity concerning South Carolina too often centers on unpleasant things, the state takes center stage in the political circus that used to come once every four years but now seems to be with us nearly all the time.

In years past, the Palmetto State has enjoyed uncommon success in picking winners in the Republican primary, and that’s one reason it attracts such attention. The two other ballyhooed contests that will precede our primary will occur in Iowa and New Hampshire, and they both are symbolic of just how strange our political system can be. Iowa has a caucus system rather than a primary, and a small percentage of the state’s voters turn out. Yet they carry outsized influence because of the momentum that can result from an Iowa victory. Fewer than 4 percent of Iowa residents turned out for the 2008 caucuses, and that was a record. To boot, Iowa is 91 percent white, which doesn’t in any way mirror the actual population distribution of this country. New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary comes next, and again, there is inordinate influence. Only five states have smaller populations and, like Iowa, the makeup of the state is completely different from the country as a whole. So the two mega-events that precede the South Carolina primary can almost be looked at as anomalies.

The Republican field has been shifting rapidly, of course, with Newt Gingrich currently surging to the top. Polls show him leading in South Carolina, too, and some people admire his ability to work across the aisle with Democrats. Kershaw County voters will have lots to think about before they walk into the booth, and the party’s leader, Gov. Nikki Haley, obviously thinks it’s Mitt Romney rather than Gingrich who has the best chance to run strongly against Obama. Ron Paul, who’s attracting his own coterie of supporters in Iowa, is probably too far out in right field -- is it left? -- to gain national traction.

Polls also show lots of people haven’t made up their minds. Iowa and New Hampshire will definitely affect momentum, and it will be up to South Carolina voters to show the nation what a broad-based state is feeling about the GOP’s chances in November.


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