The New York Times has a piece today laying out the nasty politics in South Carolina that doomed John McCain's 2000 run.
People in some areas of South Carolina began to receive phone calls in which self-described pollsters would ask: “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?”
It was a reference to Bridget, who was adopted as a baby from an orphanage in Bangladesh and is darker skinned than the rest of the McCain family. Richard Hand, a professor at Bob Jones University, sent an e-mail message to “fellow South Carolinians” telling recipients that Mr. McCain had “chosen to sire children without marriage.”
Literature began to pepper the windshields of cars at political events suggesting that Mr. McCain had committed treason while a prisoner of war, that he was mentally unstable after years in a P.O.W. camp, that he was the homosexual candidate and that Mrs. McCain, who had admitted to abusing prescription drugs years earlier, was an addict.
“One time in Hilton Head, we chased these punks down the block who were handing them out,” said Jim Merrill, the Republican state majority leader, “and when we got to them and asked them where they got them, they said some guy in a red pickup truck said, ‘Hey do you wanna make $100?’”
These days, if a Republican asks if you want to make $100, get out of the men's room. But seriously, the story also notes the personal impact these attacks had on McCain and his family.
In the years that followed, many around Mr. McCain said, the South Carolina ghosts were not easily exorcised for Mr. McCain or the people close to him. Just a few months ago, at the onset of this campaign, Bridget, now 16, summoned Mr. McCain’s aides and asked them to explain in detail what had happened in South Carolina and to give assurances that it would not happen again.
Mrs. McCain was also reticent about another run. She said that the ultimate decision was in her hands, and she was deeply influenced by the feelings of Bridget, who learned about the events of 2000 only when she Googled herself last year.
Of course, leave it to Charlie Condon to offer up a solid defense that not all South Carolina Republican politicians are walking sludge.
“Our primaries have a way of doing that,” Mr. Condon said. “There is a tradition of it, it is accepted behavior, and frankly it works.”
He added, “There are no regrets about 2000. To this day I don’t have one. If someone did those things shame on them. But I did see that there was a need for bringing up issues.”