Thought y’all might be interested in reading E.J. Dionne’s column today, which he wrote before leaving Columbia yesterday.
Have to say I was a bit panicky when I started reading it, because I saw he was going in some directions that matched things I had said, and I hoped I hadn’t gone too much out on a limb as a source, to the point of embarrassing him or me. I was just, you know, talking, driving around town, having a Yuengling at Yesterday’s after the lecture — the way I do. (By the way, E.J. drank O’Doul’s. But I’m convinced that he is Catholic, nevertheless. He also chews nicotine gum constantly, to hold another vice at bay.) But I knew the main point of what I had said was sound. I was talking about the utter predictability of the GOP in SC (and elsewhere) at this point in its history.
Being the smart guy that he is, he fully got that. And being even smarter, which is to say a thorough professional, he talked to plenty of other people, from Bob McAlister to Mark Sanford to Mick Mulvaney to Will Folks (and others who didn’t make it into the column, such as Wesley Donehue).
It’s well worth a read. Here’s an excerpt:
What South Carolina can do for the GOP candidates
By E.J. Dionne Jr., Published: November 2
Can Mitt Romney be dislodged as the fragile but disciplined front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination? If he can, South Carolina is the best bet for the role of spoiler.
Republican primary voters here have historically ratified establishment choices, but the old establishment has been displaced by new forms of conservative political activism, the Tea Party being only the latest band of rebels.
South Carolina conservatives also seem representative of their peers around the country in being uncertain and more than a trifle confused about the choices they have been handed. They are skeptical of Romney, were disappointed by Rick Perry’s early performance, were enchanted by Herman Cain — a spell that may soon be broken — and are not sure what to make of the rest of the field.
All this, paradoxically, gives hope to the non-Romneys in the contest, including Perry but also former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who was campaigning in the state this week…
Oh, I know you want to get to the good part, so here it is:
The candidate who absolutely needs to win here is Perry. It’s no accident that he announced his candidacy in Charleston. Brad Warthen, a popular South Carolina blogger (and a friend of mine from his days as editorial page editor of the State newspaper), thought at the time that Perry’s August announcement speech was pitch-perfect for the state’s conservatives in its passionately anti-government and anti-Washington tone, delivered in the city where the Civil War began. The primary and indeed, the nomination, seemed within Perry’s grasp.
I’m mentioned again later, so read the whole thing.
And thanks again to E.J. for coming down and making this year’s Bernardin lecture one of our best.