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South Carolina Election Profile
By John R. Dixon, 10, and Ellen Mitcham, 11
Scholastic Student Reporters


Scholastic Student Reporters Ellen Mitcham and John Dixon with Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Bob Coble. (Photo: Diane Dixon)
South Carolina has a long and colorful political history full of proud and strong-willed people. The Palmetto State is one of the nation's smallest and oldest states. One of America's original 13 colonies, it was the first state to secede from the Union, and one of the last to emerge economically from the ashes of the Confederacy. Today, about 4 million people live here, of which 67 percent are Caucasian and 30 percent are African-American.

This past week, four prominent leaders of our state agreed to talk with Scholastic Student Reporters about the current political climate in the state and it's possible effect on the 2004 Presidential Election. Governor Mark Sanford, Senator Joel Lourie, Columbia Mayor Bob Coble, and Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Steven Hefner took time from their busy schedules to provide some insight into past and present voting patterns in South Carolina.

All of these officials confirmed that South Carolina is a Republican stronghold. In fact, only twice in the last 45 years has a Democratic presidential candidate won the state—John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Jimmy Carter in 1976. However, despite its heavily Republican leanings, the South Carolina vote in the 2000 presidential election wasn't clear-cut. George W. Bush won 57 percent of the vote, but Al Gore managed to garner a respectable 41 percent. Dr. Hefner and Senator Lourie reminded us that while most South Carolinians are Republican, they are independent thinkers who will vote based on character on policy issues, not just party loyalty. Still, with only eight electoral votes at stake and its strong Republican history, it is unlikely that South Carolina will become the battleground state in the upcoming election that it was in last month's Democratic primary, which propelled Senator John Edwards into contention.

Therefore, we do not expect to see many presidential candidates spending much time in South Carolina this fall. But Governor Sanford pointed out that we should encourage everyone to go to the polls.

"Every South Carolinian has the same influence as any other American" on who will become President, he said.



As to the issues, all four men agreed that while education is important to parents and the community in general, those issues are likely to be more influential in local and state races than in the presidential election. All seemed to think that the economy and job concerns are likely to be the major issue influencing the South Carolina vote.

"The current economic situation is likely to hurt the incumbent, President Bush, and help the Democratic contender, because whoever is in charge when things go wrong is blamed and whoever is in charge when good things happen gets the credit," said Senator Lourie.

Mayor Coble agreed, noting that "the Columbia area has last more jobs percentage-wise than any other part of the state." He also mentioned that many Republicans upstate have publicly said they will not support President Bush in the election because of the loss of manufacturing jobs. John Kerry should provide President Bush with the tough competition in November.