WMU News

South Carolina primary could be preview for Michigan

Feb. 21, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Saturday's Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, won by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, could give a good indication of who has the edge in Michigan. That's because both events are Republican primaries, both are open to all voters and there don't appear to be any big differences in the issues candidates are focusing on in either state, says Dr. John Clark, a WMU assistant professor of political science and authority on Southern politics.

"What's interesting about South Carolina is that, like Michigan, it's an open primary, so it is possible for Democrats to vote in it," Clark says. "If [Michigan voters] who are not usually Democrats are the ones who go to the polls, it favors Bush; but if people who are usually Democrats vote in large numbers, it favors Arizona Sen. John McCain."

Clark says McCain's campaign is geared more toward a general election than a partisan primary and is slanted more toward swing voters than Bush's. If people affiliated with both parties go to the polls, McCain will benefit. Clark adds that South Carolina has been a key primary state in the past and, in fact, provided Bush's father, former President George Bush, with much of his momentum on the way to the 1988 Republican presidential nomination over Bob Dole.

"South Carolina has played somewhat of an important role in past election cycles," Clark says.

Many experts believe that a Bush victory in Michigan, coming on the heals of his win in South Carolina, would all but assure the Texas governor of the Republican nomination.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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