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GOP's hopes to keep the Senate majority just got a boost

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DeMint Takes South Carolina Senate Nod

GOP’s hopes to keep the Senate majority just got a boost

Republican hopes of enlarging their 51-seat majority in the U.S. Senate this fall got a boost in South Carolina this week, as conservative Rep. Jim DeMint won the Republican nomination for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Ernest Hollings.

In a landslide that was unanticipated by pundits, DeMint (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 91%) took 59% of the vote in a run-off against former Gov. David Beasley. DeMint’s margin of victory was particularly dramatic because Beasley had won the initial primary 37% to 26%, with DeMint scraping into second place only 5,000 votes ahead of third place finisher Tom Ravenel.

Ravenal, however, endorsed DeMint in the runoff, and DeMint carried Ravenel’s homebase of Charleston with 77% of the vote.

Trade was one of the few issues on which DeMint and Beasley differed. DeMint is a free trader, while Beasley took a strong protectionist stance, which historically has been popular in South Carolina, where the textile industry has declined in recent years as textile production has moved to Mexico, the Caribbean and Asia.

But much of the campaign focused on controversies surrounding Beasley’s 1994-98 term as governor. For example, Beasley had long promised to veto any lottery bill, but reversed himself in 1998 when Democratic gubernatorial opponent Jim Hodges began catching up with him in the polls. (Hodges eventually defeated Beasley for re-election). Beasley was also criticized while governor for making bogus claims about his collegiate athletic skills, such as claiming to have run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds.

As he attempted a political comeback this year, the former governor carried a lot of baggage and many Republicans worried that he would be the more vulnerable nominee against the Democratic candidate, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Inez Tannenbaum. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) endorsed DeMint over Beasley in the run-off, and the congressman ended up carrying 32 out of the state’s 45 counties.

The 52-year-old DeMint was hailed by conservatives last year when he held his ground against tremendous pressure from the House GOP leadership and the White House and was one of only 25 Republican House members to vote against President Bush’s controversial Medicare prescription drug proposal, the first new federal entitlement in 40 years. Although both the President and White House political operative Karl Rove had initially encouraged DeMint to make the Senate race, they kept their distance from the South Carolinian following his “no” vote on the drug bill, and this led to speculation that the White House would not be upset if someone else won the nomination. Following the run-off, however, DeMint spokesman John Hart told me that President Bush called DeMint “to congratulate him and indicated his strong support for November.”

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John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â? video interviews that appear on HumanEvents.com. Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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