S.C. in primary spotlight

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By The Staff

It's our turn. Every four years since 1980, South Carolina has had its time in the national spotlight during the presidential primary season.

For most of those 28 years, South Carolina's Republican presidential primary has enjoyed that glaring light. And it's become the barometer state for GOP candidates hoping to get to the White House.

That's because every Republican candidate since 1980 has won the primary in South Carolina before going on to capture the party nomination. That's Ronald Reagan, the senior George Bush, Bob Dole and the junior George Bush – all candidates who were viewed as the "establishment candidates" of their party.

South Carolina has been the "firewall state" that helped weed out those candidates who hoped to rain on the parades of the establishment candidates. That includes John Connelly in 1980, Pat Robertson in 1988 and pretty much John McCain eight years ago.

But what about this year? The Republicans have a crowded field with no clear establishment candidate. That means a lot of Republican candidates will be visiting the state before the Jan. 19 GOP primary. It also means South Carolina will get a lot of attention until then.

But will South Carolina Republicans' track record of picking the candidate who is the ultimate nominee continue? With so many Republican candidates, quite possibly not. It may not be until late spring before we can tell if the GOP primary here remains the crystal ball of revealing the Republican nominee.

Of course, Republicans aren't the only ones to have a "first in the South" race in the Palmetto State anymore. The Democrat's Jan. 26 contest is also a "first in the South" race.

Four years ago, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, who was born in South Carolina, banked on his native state to get him to the White House. And though he won the primary here, his strategy didn't work. His win here didn't catapult him to victory in the states that followed us to the primary polls as he had hoped. He had to settle for being John Kerry's running mate.

But what about this year? Can Edwards, who placed a solid second in Iowa's contest but a distant third in New Hampshire's primary, win here, or even prove that he's still viable?

Or will the race here be the springboard to nominate either the former first lady and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton or U.S. Sen. Barack Obama as the 2008 Democratic candidate for president? We simply don't have a clue.

But we are enjoying our days in the spotlight. And we hope you are, too. You should. Whether you consider yourself a Democrat, Republican or independent, you should take this process seriously.

We hope you're paying attention to what the candidates are saying as they court our votes. We also hope you'll take advantage of opportunities to see the candidates speak when they visit our state – as such opportunities are truly rare.

Most of all during this process, we hope you'll find a candidate that resonates with your beliefs. And we hope you'll vote for him or her on Jan. 19 or Jan. 26.