Southern discomfort

National | South Carolina incumbent's decision not to seek reelection may be just the beginning of the Democrats' woes in the South

Issue: "Nuclear threat in Korea," Aug. 16, 2003

On Aug. 4, 81-year-old Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) announced he would not seek a seventh full Senate term in 2004. That's bad news for the Democrats, who can't afford to lose any of their current seats if they hope to end the GOP's two-vote majority. But Mr. Hollings isn't the only likely retiree in the Deep South, a region tilting increasingly to the Republicans ... Geaorgia Voters seem to like the fact that Democratic Sen. Zell Miller often votes like a Republican, and they're likely to pick the real thing in 2004. Mr. Miller's retirement creates a huge opportunity for state GOP Chairman Ralph Reed, who masterminded a near-total Republican sweep in 2002. If he can put another Republican in Mr. Miller's seat, Georgia would be arguably the most solidly Republican state in the Southeast. North Carolina If the presidential campaign of Sen. John Edwards ever gains traction, he'll have to drop his bid for a second Senate term. Republicans think North Carolina is GOP territory, but they lack a marquee name like Elizabeth Dole, who easily picked up an open seat in 2002. South Carolina Even Fritz Hollings would have had a hard time getting reelected in this GOP stronghold. Republicans have a deep field of strong candidates, while the Democrats' best-known officeholder may be the superintendent of education-hardly the traditional launching pad for a successful Senate bid. Florida Joe Lieberman isn't the only Democrat hoping Sen. Bob Graham abandons his presidential dreams. If Mr. Graham keeps chasing the top prize, Democrats may have a tough time holding on to his open seat, especially since Team Bush is certain to make a huge effort in the state that nearly cost them the election last time around.

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