GOP House members give McCain support

COLUMBIA - This time around, Sen. John McCain is determined to quell early on the kind of grassroots resistance that aided his defeat in South Carolina eight years ago, Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said.


Mr. Huffmon cites that as the reason House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who is helping lead Mr. McCain's presidential efforts in South Carolina, announced the support of 40 House Republicans at a news conference Wednesday.

The group represents lawmakers from throughout the state.

Among them are Speaker Pro Tem Doug Smith; House Majority Leader Jim Merrill; Rep. Bill Herbkersman, of Bluffton; Rep. Catherine Ceips, of Beaufort; Rep. Don Smith, of North Augusta; and Rep. Roland Smith, of Langley.

"There's too much at stake, and as citizens and as parents we felt a strong obligation to put politics aside and do the right thing for our country and focus on who we think ought to be the next president of the United States," Mr. Harrell said.

A year before South Carolina's primaries, the announcement will make little difference to voters, Mr. Huffmon said. But amassing supporters statewide now means few will be available to join and run other potential candidates' campaigns down the road.

"It's strategy aimed at quelling the type of anti-McCain sentiment he saw in 2000," Mr. Huffmon said.

Three other people considering a 2008 presidential campaign were in South Carolina this week.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was in the state Monday and Tuesday, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback was in Columbia on Friday and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is scheduled to meet with Republican leadership today.

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- The Senate gave final approval for a constitutional amendment that would ask voters whether the position of comptroller general should be popularly elected or appointed by the governor.

- A bill expanding the Department of Education's virtual school pilot program made it out of committee and is headed for full House debate. The virtual school allows high-schoolers to earn class credits by taking online courses.

- The Senate Finance committee approved an amended version of the South Carolina Hydrogen Infrastructure Development Fund, aimed at encouraging research and investment into hydrogen, which is viewed as one of the "clean fuel" options for the future.

- Morris News Service