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May 2, 2011, 7:46 a.m.

Ex-Sen. Rick San­tor­um (R-PA) will be the guest at IA state Rep. Jeff Kaufmann’s (R) “third an­nu­al bar­be­cue” on 10/13.

San­tor­um “will at­tend along with a host of oth­er can­did­ates,” Kaufmann said 10/11 (Jac­obs, Des Moines Re­gister, 10/11).

Earli­er in the day on 10/13 San­tor­um “will be the Key­note Speak­er for a lunch­eon” be­ne­fit­ing Linn Eagles, an or­gan­iz­a­tion com­mit­ted to fur­ther­ing a strong GOP pres­ence in Linn Co.

San­tor­um con­tin­ues his IA swing on 10/14, be­gin­ning with a “vo­lun­teer rally” at the Scott Co. Vic­tory Headquar­ters in Dav­en­port. Later that day, San­tor­um will at­tend a lunch­eon for state House can­did­ate Paul Kern (R).

San­tor­um de­parts IA for an­oth­er key ‘12 primary state, ar­riv­ing 10/15 in NH to “give a key­note ad­dress at Corner­stone-Ac­tion’s An­nu­al Stew­ard of the Fam­ily” in Manchester (re­lease, 10/11).

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Race is no longer as overt a factor in South Car­o­lina polit­ics as it was when Strom Thur­mond, who is me­mori­al­ized in a statue loom­ing over the state Cap­it­ol com­plex here, quit the Demo­crat­ic Party for the GOP after Con­gress passed the land­mark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Yet race re­mains em­bed­ded in the state’s polit­ic­al DNA. The role of race in South Car­o­lina polit­ics has moved far bey­ond the civil-rights era’s ques­tions of ex­pli­cit dis­crim­in­a­tion. Today, wheth­er openly dis­cussed or not, race is cent­ral to the clash between Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans over taxes and spend­ing. In that way, far more than in the days of the back­lash against in­teg­ra­tion, the state pre­views what na­tion­al polit­ics will in­creas­ingly re­semble if it con­tin­ues along its cur­rent tra­ject­ory.

The dom­in­ant fact of South Car­o­lina polit­ics is ra­cial po­lar­iz­a­tion. In the 2008 gen­er­al elec­tion, Barack Obama won 96 per­cent of the state’s Afric­an-Amer­ic­an vote, but John Mc­Cain car­ried 73 per­cent of its white voters. That wasn’t an an­om­aly rooted in Obama’s race: In 2004, George W. Bush won an even high­er per­cent­age of the state’s white voters (78) against John Kerry. And in the 2010 gov­ernor’s race, In­di­an-Amer­ic­an Nikki Haley car­ried 70 per­cent of whites in the Re­pub­lic­an’s nar­row vic­tory over Vin­cent Sheheen, a cent­rist white Demo­crat­ic state sen­at­or. Sheheen, mean­while, won 94 per­cent of the black vote. In Sat­urday’s crit­ic­al GOP pres­id­en­tial primary, whites will likely cast more than 95 per­cent of the bal­lots (al­though they rep­res­ent only about two-thirds of the state’s pop­u­la­tion).

Some­times the two parties in South Car­o­lina col­lide over is­sues that dir­ectly in­flame ra­cial ten­sions, as they did in 2000 over the dis­play of the Con­fed­er­ate flag. The le­gis­la­tion that Haley signed last May tough­en­ing voter-iden­ti­fic­a­tion re­quire­ments — which the Obama Justice De­part­ment has moved to block as ra­cially dis­crim­in­at­ory — has pro­duced sim­il­ar, if less ex­plos­ive, col­li­sions.

But mostly, ra­cial con­flicts in state polit­ics now play out through the parties’ dif­fer­ences over the role of gov­ern­ment. Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans and oth­er minor­it­ies over­whelm­ingly be­lieve that they need an act­iv­ist gov­ern­ment in­vest­ing in ser­vices, such as edu­ca­tion, job train­ing, and health care, to help them as­cend in­to the middle class. Most of South Car­o­lina’s whites are com­fort­able with a gov­ern­ing mod­el that lim­its taxes while in­vest­ing far less than most states in pub­lic ser­vices. “There is a fun­da­ment­al dif­fer­ence in at­ti­tudes about the role of gov­ern­ment between whites and Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans,” says vet­er­an South Car­o­lina GOP strategist War­ren Tomp­kins.

The Re­pub­lic­an skep­ti­cism about gov­ern­ment here, as in Wash­ing­ton, mani­fests most im­port­antly as un­waver­ing op­pos­i­tion to new taxes. Res­ist­ing tax in­creases “is the one is­sue that uni­fies Re­pub­lic­ans,” says GOP state Sen. John Courson. “It is the chew­ing gum, or glue, that keeps Re­pub­lic­ans to­geth­er.” Courson, who chairs the Sen­ate Edu­ca­tion Com­mit­tee, ac­know­ledges that com­mit­ment to low taxes comes with a cost, par­tic­u­larly for the state’s pub­lic-school stu­dents, nearly half of whom are now minor­it­ies. “The rev­en­ue stream has not been there to ad­equately fund pub­lic or high­er edu­ca­tion in South Car­o­lina,” he says flatly. But, like oth­ers in his party, Courson ar­gues that the an­swer is not to in­crease rev­en­ue but to trim waste in the edu­ca­tion sys­tem and to find sav­ings else­where, par­tic­u­larly in Medi­caid for the poor.

As Obama does na­tion­ally, Demo­crats in South Car­o­lina of­fer the coun­ter­ar­gu­ment that the state can­not at­tract good-pay­ing jobs without in­vest­ing more in edu­ca­tion, train­ing, and in­fra­struc­ture. That case helped Sheheen un­ex­pec­tedly win the state Cham­ber of Com­merce’s en­dorse­ment in the gubernat­ori­al race last year.

Yet in press­ing that ar­gu­ment, Demo­crats face two huge head­winds among South Car­o­lina’s whites. One is the en­dur­ing be­lief that too many gov­ern­ment pro­grams be­ne­fit the in­dol­ent — a group that in many minds is dis­pro­por­tion­ately com­posed of minor­it­ies. “It’s all race, it’s just that simple,” says John Land, the (white) state Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic lead­er. The second prob­lem is a sharp right­ward shift among white seni­ors, who see little per­son­al be­ne­fit in the edu­ca­tion or in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ments that Demo­crats fa­vor. “They feel dif­fer­ently about pay­ing taxes for kids they don’t have any­more,” says Demo­crat­ic state Rep. Wil­li­am Cly­burn, who chairs the le­gis­lat­ive black caucus.

In all these ways, the state crys­tal­lizes the dy­nam­ics shap­ing the na­tion­al de­bate. Na­tion­al polls show that amid tough times, most whites (es­pe­cially older and blue-col­lar whites) are harden­ing in skep­ti­cism of gov­ern­ment, while most minor­it­ies con­tin­ue to view it as es­sen­tial to their op­por­tun­ity. Mitt Rom­ney presents that back­lash as op­pos­i­tion to an “en­ti­tle­ment so­ci­ety,” but that’s too broad. Sur­veys in­dic­ate that most Re­pub­lic­ans (par­tic­u­larly the white seni­ors flock­ing to the party) are adam­ant about pre­serving the biggest en­ti­tle­ments, So­cial Se­cur­ity and Medi­care; what they op­pose is trans­fer pay­ments to people they view as un­deserving.

It’s that sen­ti­ment Newt Gin­grich stokes when he de­rides Obama as “the food-stamp pres­id­ent.” It al­most doesn’t mat­ter wheth­er Gin­grich is de­lib­er­ately send­ing coded ra­cial sig­nals. As long as the ar­gu­ment between the parties re­volves so cent­rally around gov­ern­ment’s role — and whites and minor­it­ies di­vide so sharply in their at­ti­tudes to­ward gov­ern­ment­al act­iv­ism — the ra­cial po­lar­iz­a­tion that defines South Car­o­lina polit­ics will in­creas­ingly drive our na­tion­al cam­paigns as well.

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