Voters go to the polls in South Carolina on Saturday but the state has already mailed out absentee ballots and is experiencing a record level of demand for them. This may indicate a larger voter turnout, which should benefit John McCain. Most polls show George W. Bush with a slight lead, but no one is willing to call the race.
By all accounts the race has gotten very ugly. Bush has maintained his negative advertising blitz while simultaneously criticizing McCain for being negative. This despite McCain's abandoning negative advertising last Friday and pursuing an "all positive, all the time" campaign in the intervening week.
Proof arrived Thursday that Bush's "grass-roots organization is all cranked up." A South Carolina source reports that someone is sending out highly targeted e-mails to South Carolinians who list their birth dates as 1952 in their AOL member profiles. The message is headlined "McCain Campaign Supplies Alcohol to Minors" and reiterates a previously reported story that the McCain campaign served alcohol to minors during his "welcome to South Carolina" party. The mail contains an unsubstantiated claim that "it has now been learned that Senator McCain's campaign
attracted those young adults to the rally with the lure of free beer."
Bush's magic-wand theory of public policy
Bush's grasp of policy has been widely challenged, but Thursday he unveiled a new approach. When a woman asked what he would do about her medical insurance -- which doesn't cover her son's chronic, life-threatening illness -- Bush responded, "I'm sorry. I wish I could wave a wand."
Bush's recent assertion that he is a reformer with results is challenged a bit by the fact that he has accepted twice the number of flights on contributors' jets as McCain has.
Is Bill Bradley still running?
Despite appearances, there is still a race for the Democratic nomination. Bradley's campaign hasn't been able to generate much interest and has less traction since his New Hampshire loss.
The candidate has been consistently frustrated by the lack of media attention to his bid and doubly so by the fixation on McCain. Don't tell Al Gore that he's scheduled to win the nomination by a landslide; he has continued to play a fast and hard game against Bradley, even accusing him of being a "special agent" for the Republican Party.
Outside the republicracy, Ralph Nader is scheduled to announce his candidacy as the nominee of the Green Party on Monday.
"He is the Don Quixote of modern-day politics" --
Al D'Amato on McCain's candidacy in the New York Times.
The latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows Bush leading McCain in South Carolina 52 to 40 percent. A Clemson University poll released Thursday predicts that turnout for the South Carolina primary will be 45 percent, a 6-point jump since January.
On the trail
Both Republicans continue their mad dash around South Carolina.
Bradley starts the day in New York City and ends it in Seattle while Gore swings from St. Louis to Springfield, Mass.