Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

1994 Election Could Be a Nightmare for Clinton

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

1994 Election Could Be a Nightmare for Clinton

Article excerpt

In this shady city and across South Carolina's 3rd Congressional District, a piece of President Bill Clinton's national nightmare may be taking shape.

Has there ever been a Republican congressman here? "Not without guns," answers the Republican candidate, Lindsey Graham. "It took the Union Army." Reconstruction, 1877. But Graham may get to Congress by saying, "I'm one less vote for an agenda that makes you want to throw up."

This district is a strip of recalcitrance running along Georgia's border up to North Carolina's. Recalcitrance, meaning resentment of Washington, is now called conservatism and is obligatory for candidates of both parties here.

The district has had just two congressmen in 44 years. The seat is being vacated by Butler Derrick, a 10-term Democrat from the 1974 "Watergate" class. Two years ago, he won a 61 percent landslide. This year, prospective opponents had polls showing him vulnerable. Washington probably wonders why, given that as one of his party's whips he is part of the House Democratic leadership. That is why.

The Democrats' 1992 "two Bubbas" ticket (well, Bubbas from Yale and Harvard), the first all-Southern presidential ticket since Jackson-Calhoun in 1828, was supposed to reverse Democrats' fading fortunes in Dixie. But the Clinton-Gore ticket carried only four Southern states while Republicans were making a net gain of eight House seats in the South.

This is a tale of a long tide. In 1948, Strom Thurmond, then South Carolina's Democratic governor, ran a Dixiecrat campaign for president. In 1952, this town supported Dwight Eisenhower. In 1964, Thurmond - by then a senator - became a Republican, and South Carolina supported Barry Goldwater. In 1974, it elected its first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

In congressional races, the 3rd district stayed Democratic because the incumbents served local textile interests and traditional pork-barrel politics, and because they were not blamed for national Democratic tendencies. But today Southern Democrats are an endangered species because congressional races are being nationalized.

Graham, a 39-year-old state legislator, thinks the road to Congress runs straight against Bill Clinton on such issues as homosexuals in the military. …

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