The Washington Post

In South Carolina, shades of the 2000 primary

My advice to Democrats is to enjoy South Carolina while it lasts. It reminds me of 2000 when John McCain and George W. Bush went after each other in that state’s primary. We in the Gore campaign could barely believe our good fortune. We had survived our New Hampshire near-death experience and got to sit back and watch Republican fratricide. Bush won, but he won ugly, and he lost a little moral altitude by countenancing dirty tricks against McCain. McCain’s anger and a disorganized campaign led him to make a mistake, running an ad, quickly pulled, that compared Bush to Bill Clinton, which seemed out of bounds even by the Wild West standards of South Carolina. Each day, we chortled as McCain and Bush engaged in a political game of the “dozens,” ratcheting up the insults. Surely, this would have lasting damage; they had given us a whole video archive of attacks that we could repurpose for the general election.

Within a couple of weeks, it was all over. The McCain campaign ended, and Bush, with full media compliance, pivoted back to being a compassionate conservative. South Carolina was forgotten by all but McCain and his wife.

The parallel with 2012 is this: When Mitt Romney puts away the nomination, after South Carolina or Florida, whatever damage that remains from his Palmetto hell week will not endure. He will have the winner’s halo, and the media will immediately begin building the drama of a tight race between him and President Obama. Romney will likely have a smart plan to relaunch his campaign, beginning by consolidating his party. Polls will come out showing him with a slight lead. South Carolina will be distant.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Making family dinnertime happen
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
Play Videos
A veteran finds healing on a dog sled
Learn to make this twice-baked cookie
How to prevent 'e-barrassment'
Play Videos
Syrian refugee: 'I’m committed to the power of music'
The art of tortilla-making
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Circus nuns: These sisters are no act
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
Cool off with sno-balls, a New Orleans treat