Washington Prowler

Sweaty Palms

Nervous Democratic dwarfs and the Confederate flag. Also: John Kerry's glad-handing pays off.

By 1.23.03

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BANNER BOYCOTTERS
The Republican Party in South Carolina is roasting Democratic presidential hopefuls who have been telling anyone who will listen -- outside of South Carolina, of course -- that they will support the NAACP-led economic boycott of the state, which has been in place since the furor over the use of the Confederate flag on state property was touched off several years ago.

Rep. Dick Gephardt seemed to be the candidate to set the spineless standard when he refused to answer a question about the controversy while visiting South Carolina several weeks ago, but then upon leaving the state commented on how upsetting the Confederate flag matter really was.

Sen. John Edwards, who was born and raised in the South Carolina, has said he will support the economic boycott. So the question then is, which small North Carolina border town will serve as the beachhead for Democrats launching their South Carolina primary campaigns? And if a candidate's campaign headquarters aren't located in a primary state, is it fair for him to compete in its primary -- if it can still even be called a primary?

Edwards has been the most vocal on the state boycott, but other Democrats have essentially said they will hold the same position. The flag flap is one reason the Republican Party has performed so well recently in the state. And if Democrats keep pushing the boycott, it may ensure a clean sweep for the GOP next time around. There continue to be rumblings that octogenarian Democratic Sen. Fritz Hollings is mulling retirement, though the thought of a Republican winning his seat might keep him in place.

The state GOP has been chasing down the Democrats presidential hopefuls to challenge them on the boycott. "It's our state, they're just visiting," says a state party staffer. "Edwards is the worst. He's homegrown and until he decided he wanted to be president never said a word about the flag. Someone has to call them on it."

EARLY DEPOSIT
Sen. John Kerry has been spending time recently in Florida, fundraising and recruiting money people to help on his campaign. So far he's been successful, although several high profile Democratic fundraisers either have told him that they've committed to Joe Lieberman or are waiting to see what Sen. Bob Graham decides to do.

"Either way, Kerry's smart," says a state fundraiser. "He's pulling money out of the state before things begin to firm up. Most of these people aren't going to give a thousand to everyone, and if Graham doesn't make the run, Kerry's in."

Kerry has done the same in several other states, including California, where as early as last summer, he began rounding up donors and fundraisers who'd previously supported Gore and were expecting him to run again. Now that Gore isn't running, Kerry has these backers where we wants them.

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