Condon Makes Dean an Issue in S.C. Senate Race

Posted January 6, 2004 at 2:16pm

Former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon (R) will launch a television ad Wednesday in support of his Senate campaign that derisively refers to the “Howard Dean Democrats’” stance on the war in Iraq.

“The Howard Dean Democrats oppose America taking the fight to Saddam Hussein and terrorist havens overseas,” says Condon in the 30-second spot that was produced by Red Sea LLC and will run statewide. “They’re just wrong.”

The commercial — the first this cycle by a Republican Senate candidate that mentions Dean — is likely to reignite the debate over the former Vermont governor’s effect on downballot races if he becomes his party’s presidential nominee.

That debate had receded somewhat since Dean used his vast Internet donor base to raise better than $50,000 for Iowa Rep. Leonard Boswell, who faces a serious re-election challenge in his swing Des Moines-based district.

But, with Democrats seeking to maintain five open Senate seats in the South — including one in the Palmetto State where Sen. Fritz Hollings (D) is stepping down after more than three decades — Condon’s ad may provide fodder for Dean’s critics.

Condon, Rep. Jim DeMint, wealthy developer Thomas Ravenel and Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride are competing for the Republican nomination to succeed Hollings. Former Gov. David Beasley (R) has said he will make a decision on the race in the next two weeks.

State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum (S.C.) is the likely Democratic nominee but has not yet commented publicly on the potential effect a Dean nomination could have on her race.

Condon is expected to call on Tenenbaum to either support or reject Dean at a press conference announcing the ad campaign tomorrow, said knowledgeable D.C. sources.

That strategy may presage attempts by the eventual Republican nominees in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana to tie their Democratic opponents to not only Dean’s position on the war but also his signing of landmark legislation instituting civil unions and his call for a complete repeal of the Bush tax cuts.

The ad campaign also comes less than one month from the Feb. 3 South Carolina presidential primary, the contest many candidates in the race — especially Sens. John Edwards (N.C.) and Joe Lieberman (Conn.) as well as retired Gen. Wesley Clark — see as the bulwark against a Dean coronation.

Dean is in a neck-and-neck race with Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.) in the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses and has a clear lead in the Jan. 27 New Hampshire primary.

His Democratic rivals have regularly suggested that his opposition to the war in Iraq, however, will doom his candidacy among more conservative-minded Democrats in states like South Carolina and Oklahoma, both of which hold primaries in early February.

And, they argue, if Dean becomes the nominee he could drag down Democrats’ hopes throughout the South in 2004.

In an attempt to counteract that rhetoric, Dean has focused considerable energy on outreach to disaffected white, Southern Democrats.

He got himself into hot water last fall by saying he wanted to be the candidate for “guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks”

More recently, Dean has said his travels in the South and conversations with voters there have made him more willing to discuss his religious beliefs publicly.

Dean’s campaign did not immediately return a call for comment.