Fundraiser to Help Underwrite S.C. Primary

By Chris Cillizza
Friday, February 23, 2007

South Carolina may be a new addition to the early days of Democrats' presidential nomination fight, but the state is already showing veteran savvy when it comes to collecting cash for its Jan. 29, 2008, primary.

Witness a fundraiser set for March 7 in Washington. The featured guests? The bulk of the 2008 Democratic field, including Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Joe Biden (Del.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.), as well as former senator John Edwards (N.C.) and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack. Reps. Jim Clyburn and John Spratt -- the only Democrats in South Carolina's congressional delegation -- are also set to appear.

The event, which will be emceed by Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry, is being billed as a "kickoff reception" for the state's presidential primary.

Joe Erwin, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, explained that his state is one of a handful where the party must raise all of the money to finance the primary. In 2004, Erwin estimated, the cost of South Carolina's Democratic primary was $285,000. He believes the price tag this time will be closer to $500,000.

"It's a great honor to seek and successfully garner the first-in-the-South primary; it's a heck of a challenge to put it on," Erwin said.

Breaux to the Rescue?

One question dominated the political chatter at this week's Washington Mardi Gras celebration: Will he or won't he? The "he" in question being former senator John Breaux (D-La.), who is looking seriously at running for governor in November.

Breaux, who served in Congress for more than three decades, is widely seen as Democrats' strongest statewide candidate and is being pushed to make a run by party regulars who don't believe Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) can win reelection. Blanco faced widespread criticism for her handling of the response to Hurricane Katrina, and private polling has shown her badly trailing Rep. Bobby Jindal (R), who has already declared his candidacy.

"Really, only John and Lois Breaux know the real odds of his decision-making process right now," said Rich Masters, a former senior aide to Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (D). "But the odds of remaking New Orleans and the state would be much better with John Breaux as governor, so personally I hope he runs."

Breaux did not return a call seeking comment. He has until Sept. 6 -- the state's filing deadline -- to make up his mind.

Huckabee Gets a Hand on the Hill

Former governor and current presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) isn't a household name inside the Beltway. He's hoping to change that today as he announces the congressional co-chairs of his national bid.

Reps. Don Young (Alaska) and John Boozman (Ark.) will lead Huckabee's efforts to make inroads among the opinion leaders on Capitol Hill.

Asked about winning congressional endorsements, Huckabee said "it shows [that] people who are policy makers are willing to sign on," but he added: "Frankly, I don't think it's going to tip the election one way or another."

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