U.S. Senate Race Coming Down To The Wire
June 1, 2004
One week from today is the big day for Republicans in South Carolina.
We get to finally choose who we want to be our candidate to face ultra-liberal Democratic candidate Inez Tenenbaum in November to replace outgoing (and good riddance to) Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings.
Let's take one last look at each candidate and see what their chances are heading into the June 8 Republican primary:
U.S. Rep.Jim DeMint will be holding a campaign rally this Friday, June 4, 2004 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Innovative Building in Greenville, SC. He will be supported by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), who will be speaking to supporters at this free event.
With more than 200 $1,000 sponsors for this event, DeMint is hoping to solidify a few more voters in what is sure to be a photo finish for second place with Thomas Ravenel. For more information on the rally, RSVP by calling 866-546-2004.
DeMint has run a strong issues-oriented campaign. As the only candidate with Capitol Hill experience, he is certainly tailor-made for the Senate.
But his support for some of Bush's controversial policies in the past few years have made him a question mark with some Republicans in South Carolina. Also, the other candidates have used him as a punching bag because of his close association with Bush on several issues.
If DeMint has been able to overcome the lack of name recognition in the Midlands and Lowcountry, then he might have a chance to be in the runoff. But there's someone who might have something to say about that....
That someone would be Charleston businessman Thomas Ravenel.
He has vowed to shake 100,000 hands by the November election if he is the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate. He has already shaken nearly a third of that total goal to date, according to his web site.
But what is most surprising about Ravenel's campaign are the plethora of ads this guy is pumping out! Gov. Mark Sanford proved in 2002 that a successful campaign on television and radio can go a long way towards educating voters about who you are when they've never heard of you.
Plus, since Ravenel is a newcomer to politics, it was vitally important that he define himself for voters. And he has done that. It certainly didn't hurt that he donated his campaign $1 million to make that happen. But the question remains whether voters like what they have been seeing from Ravenel.
And that leads us to former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon. I must say that I was a bit surprised to see Condon enter this race after the beating he took in the 2002 gubernatorial primary race.
But, early on he surprised me by supposedly reinventing himself as this mild-mannered defender of justice and terrorist-fighting champion. In fact, most newspapers were crediting Condon the winner of many of the debates that took place earlier this year.
However, Condon soon resorted to some of the same tactics that ruined his previous bid for public office - namely, being especially critical of one of his fellow opponents, DeMint, who just so happened to be the candidate just ahead of him in the polls.
Ever since Condon began attacking DeMint, his poll numbers have dropped significantly and he is now in fourth place among the six. I like Charlie, but I think his time in politics has finally run its course.
And that leads me to the two candidates below Condon in the polls. And when I say below Condon, they are not even in the same league as the rest of the candidates, including Condon.
Businesswoman Orly Benny Davis, the latest candidate to enter this race for Senate, never had a chance from the start. Her story is an amazing one indeed, but she reached a political office out of her reach and way too soon.
In my opinion, she would make a great ambassador or foreign diplomat for President Bush. Unfortunately, there are too many other qualified candidates in South Carolina for her to ever be a U.S. Senator.
Maybe she could run for the state House or Senate and get some experience for a future run for Congress? Think about it, Ms. Davis. I appreciate your kindness to me and wish you the best.
And then there is Myrtle Beach mayor Mark McBride. Obviously from my previous columns and commentary, most people know how I feel about him. Attempting to stay objective, I can say that he has run a different campaign, to say the least.
It seems his strategy of taking the opposite position to what most South Carolina Republicans believe was his MO from the start. To me, that came across as smug and arrogant. My thoughts about him were recently confirmed by a woman who had a similar experience dealing with McBride.
At this point, it is best if McBride just goes back to Myrtle Beach and stay there. If 2004 is any indication of how he would run any future political races, then he should not waste his time, money and energy again running for public office.
That only leaves one candidate who just so happens to be leading all the polls - fomer South Carolina Gov. David Beasley.
Something I have found interesting from the start with this campaign is how the other candidates have conceded that Beasley has automatically secured a spot in the runoff.
Although he entered the race late, Beasley has indeed attracted a lot of attention from conservatives who supported him even during that humiliating reelection loss to Democrat Jim Hodges in 1998. But since that time, Beasley says he has changed and grown as a person.
Quite frankly, though, Beasley has the most to lose in this race. Annointed from the beginning as the probable Senate nominee, this will be his last election if he loses. Actually, it'll probably be his last election if he wins, too, since he will either be defeated by Tenenbaum or win the U.S. Senate seat in November.
Beasley often has boasted that he is the only Republican who can beat Tenebaum in November. That's a bit presumptuous by Beasley, but he's doing that for effect. He wants people to believe that.
Former Lt. Gov. and 2002 GOP gubernatorial primary runner-up Bob Peeler, who coincidentally endorsed Beasley last week, tried that same tactic when he ran for governor, but it didn't work for him. And I don't think voters will buy it from Beasley either.
While he is certainly a strong candidate in South Carolina, I don't think he is invulnerable, especially in a runoff with DeMint or Ravenel.
So that's where we are. Beasley vs. DeMint or Beasley vs. Ravenel?
Or could we all be surprised if DeMint ends up facing Ravenel in the runoff? Wouldn't that be a shocker?!
Next Tuesday, we'll know for sure!