Bloggers argue for their favorite Republican candidates in advance of the South Carolina primary and draw warnings from the indictment of Mark Siljander, a former GOP congressman indicted for allegedly funneling money to al-Qaida. They also take turns throwing at their latest dartboard, the new MacBook Air.
Palmetto preview: Three different Republican primary victors have given Saturday's South Carolina primary more influence than ever. Bloggers enjoy the rare opportunity to participate in a wide-open election.
An anonymous college prof gives the history of the king-making Carolina primary on Panic In Year Zero:"Working for Ronald Reagan in 1980, [Lee] Atwater helped arrange his state's early placement on the primary schedule to help the right-wing Californian put down the 'moderate' challenge of George H.W. Bush. Since then, no Republican has won the White House without first scoring a victory in the South Carolina primary."
Much of the discourse centers around John McCain and Mitt Romney, who have been trading aggressive attacks in South Carolina. Based on conversations with a Romney aide, Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review's Corner reports that Mitt's leaving the state: "Said aide said folks are resigned to a strong third or fourth place finish and the mood seems to be, based on internals, that South Carolina may be McCain's." Jonathan Martin, who covers the GOP for Politico, says Romney's conceding early to lower expectations: "It's Rudy in N.H. all over again—spend a lot of cash and time, realize you can't win, try to spin expectations game."
Today's papers report that John McCain is meeting negative attacks head-on to avoid a repeat of 2000's campaign-ending experience in South Carolina. Paul Kiel at the left-leaning TPM Muckraker predicts that the push-poll scheme won't hurt McCain: "The calls, numbering around seven million so far in various primary states, are the work of the Huck-supporting group Common Sense Issues, and the attacks are pretty standard GOP negative fare so far." On The Fix, the Washinton Post's politics blog, Chris Cillizza warns that 2000 shouldn't "cloud the analysis" of the current situation: "Geographic changes have accrued to McCain's benefit over the last eight years, as has his work to allay voters' fears about his conservative credentials."
Left-leaning Michael Stickings of the Moderate Voice calls a Romney nomination even if McCain wins Saturday: "McCain did well in New Hampshire, as he should have, and he may yet win South Carolina, but I can't see the G.O.P. establishment and the conservative movement fully accepting him as their preferred nominee." Scott Miller at the Conservative Post confirms that analysis; after posting a list of McCain quotes, he complains: "We could just as easily swap out the name 'McCain' for Hillary Clinton."
Who's funding al-Qaida?: Former Michigan Republican Rep. Mark Siljander was indicted Wednesay on various charges, including money laundering, in a scheme to fund Islamic terrorist organizations. Bloggers attempt to make sense of the seemingly paradoxical: a terrorist-coddling Republican?
Debbie Schlussel, a conservative blogger and former intern for Siljander, is aghast: "What makes the allegations in the indictment so shocking, is that Siljander is a Born-Again Evangelical Christian. We had fast days in his office. There were prayer circles. So deeply religious and so deeply against the Islamic threat, Siljander was known, at the time, as the most pro-Israel Congressman on Capitol Hill." To which Andrew Sullivan quips: "Er, yeah. Osama bin Laden has prayer circles too."
And Larkin at the liberal Wizbang Blue isn't as shocked as some conservative bloggers: "It certainly comes as no surprise to me that a Republican has been raising money for al Qaeda assuming the charges are true. Al Qaeda and the Republicans both rely on the fear generated by each other to remain in power. Republicans are constantly promoting the threat we face from al Qaeda even reproducing statements from bin Laden and images of terrorist attacks in political ads that they use on a regular basis."