THE PLANK DECEMBER 22, 2008
The New York Times offers up Columbia,
South Carolina as a snapshot of how the financial disaster hits
mid-size cities. Evidently Columbia is a "microcosm of the nation over
the last decade" on all kinds of economic indicators, and it's now
suffering from an array of standard woes: Jobs are melting away, the
recently revitalized downtown shows signs of degentrification, etc.
of course, there's one way Columbia differs from other mid-sized
cities. Every four years it anchors the statewide make-or-break
presidential primaries, and as candidates descend on the city to
frenziedly court its operatives and attend debates, its issues get
magnified into America's issues. I was in Columbia for last year's GOP
primary, and it's amazing to remember how little the economy crept into
the conversation just eleven months ago -- all the fascination was in
the demise of Fred Thompson, and who would win upstate evangelicals,
and whether South Carolinians would punish McCain for his stance on
immigration or reward him for setting foot in the state at all,
considering the wrongs they had done him in 2000.
How different would a South Carolina primary look today, with Columbia feeling the burn? Could the "Mittmentum"
Jon Cohn predicted have carried Romney nearer to victory in South
Carolina and given him a shot at the nomination? (Sorry to dredge up
that old forecast, Jon, but don't feel bad -- I just discovered that I
wrote a dispatch from South Carolina entitled "Place Your Money On Huckabee." Oops.)