TNR Shines Another Light On S.C.'s Dirty Politics

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The New Republic has a story titled "Low Country" about the South Carolina GOP's dirty politics. Lots of gems.

Just before a March GOP straw poll in Spartanburg, someone using the e-mail address upstaterepublican@gmail.com mass-mailed a missive titled, "Mitt Romney has a family secret he doesn't want you to know." "Those dark suspicions you hide deep inside yourself about Mormonism are trying to tell you something, " it read. "Trust your instincts! ... The light of truth will burn through the smoke and mirrors of Mitt Romney's movie star looks and crafty words!" The e-mails arrived around the same time as another anonymous letter, a six-page diatribe titled "Mitt Romney: Say anything to get elected," which ripped the former Massachusetts governor for his positions on abortion, gun control, and "conservative values."

"It's gonna be brutal, " chuckles state Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler. For the 2008 Republicans, then, winning South Carolina may be less a matter of pulling off a clear victory than simply getting out alive.

Eight years ago, George W. Bush's supporters, apparently backed by the state's GOP establishment, dragged John McCain's name through the South Carolina mud. Church fliers declared him "the fag candidate." A fringe veterans' group denounced him as a traitor. Anonymous "push-poll" phone calls told voters that he had an illegitimate black child. One Bob Jones University professor even sent a mass e-mail falsely stating that McCain had "chosen to sire children without marriage." Challenged on CNN, the professor responded, "Can you prove that there aren't any?" (Who says BJU isn't academically rigorous?)

The GOP establishment that long ran the state has faded, thanks in part to the deaths of Senator Strom Thurmond and former governor Carroll Campbell. "It's a new frontier," says Jim Corbett, state director for Sam Brownback's short-lived presidential bid. "It's wide open. The establishment--experienced, politically involved people--are spread out among the candidates." Instead of an epic two-front war, then, next year South Carolina promises to be a bloody circular firing squad.

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