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 TIME on politics TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and TIME

On 'Super Tuesday,' the South still stands strong

By Ian Christopher McCaleb/CNN

January 7, 2000
Web posted at: 11:25 a.m. EST (1625 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) - "Super Tuesday" traditionally hasn't been seen as all that super by many election planners outside of the South.

The longstanding Super Tuesday primary, scheduled for March 14 of this year, has allowed the large states of the Southeast to flex their collective muscles for almost as long as the current primary system has been in place.

Meanwhile, other regional blocs of states have looked on with envy, and have sought to assemble their own collective primary days to emulate the influence of Super Tuesday.

For instance, at the beginning of 1999, six midwestern states hashed out an idea to hold a regional primary on April 4 of 2000. The notion never came to pass.

This year, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana will again have a significant impact on the shaping of the 2000 presidential race, and not just because of the participation of Texas' favorite son, Governor George W. Bush, scion of the well regarded Texan and former president George H. W. Bush.

In recent years, the South has wrested a great deal of political influence from the once powerful Northeast, (New England and the Tri-State area surrounding New York City go to the primary polls a week prior to Super Tuesday).

While the liberal wing of the Democratic Party still wields power in the North, the political landscape has changed significantly in the South in the course of the last two decades. Once staunchly Democratic, many areas of the South have become strongholds for conservative Republicans.

So powerful has the new, post-industrial South become on the American political scene, that as the Republican Party took control of the House of Representatives in 1994 -- for the first time in some 40 years -- Southern conservatives led Congress into its new era. The first GOP House speaker since 1954 was the outspoken Newt Gingrich of Georgia, and the House leadership was rounded out by two conservatives from Texas, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay, who still hold their positions.

Trent Lott of Mississippi still holds court over the Senate as majority leader. But powerful, charismatic Southern Democrats like President Clinton are not as common a breed as they once were.

As Super Tuesday unfolds this year, the Republicans are certain to garner the most attention. The six-man field that began the presidential marathon at the beginning of the year almost certainly will have thinned somewhat, but some staunch conservatives whose poll numbers have been low so far -- conservative talk show host Alan Keyes and social activist Gary Bauer, for example -- may choose to stick it out through Super Tuesday in the hope of hitting a home run in one or more of the six states.

Bauer specifically has spent a great deal of his time campaigning in the South, and made a name for himself in Louisiana at the end of 1999, when it appeared the state might attempt to schedule a GOP caucus for one of the weeks prior to the January 24 Iowa Caucus. The plan was scrapped for lack of interest.

Bush, of course, may be expected to carry Texas on March 14, and may also do well in the border states of Louisiana and Oklahoma.

On the Democratic side, former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley will have his work cut out for him as he tries to wrest one or more of the Super Tuesday states from Tennessee native Al Gore.

Also scheduled for Super Tuesday is the Democrats Abroad Caucus -- an event allowing members of the Democratic Party who live overseas to participate in the early stages of the election season.


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