This coming election, the Palmetto State's role could be as pivotal as ever. Consider: It's possible, with Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's ascendancy in the polls, that Iowa and New Hampshire could split their votes: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is basically skipping Iowa and looks strong in New Hampshire.
The Republican Party, and the nation, seem poised to turn to South Carolina for a tiebreaker vote in the vaunted "first-in-the-South" primary.
If there is one, that is.
State funding for the primary appeared endangered early this week by a potential veto of a spending bill by Gov. Nikki Haley.
While we are very high on the governor, we strongly believe a veto of the South Carolina primary funding would be a huge mistake.
We frankly don't think very much of the caucus system, in which party nominees are chosen by whoever shows up at a meeting and has the courage to stand up publicly for the candidate they prefer; such a system lends itself to manipulation and coercion and intimidation. We much prefer the security and privacy of a secret ballot in a primary election.
And while no one wants budgets cut more than we do, there are some basic functions of government that will always be worth our tax money -- and free and fair elections are right up there with the most important of them.
Any decision to axe the primary would be penny-wise and pound-foolish anyway: The state may save on this end, but would lose big-time in exposure, prestige and, more importantly, millions of campaign dollars.
Haley spokeman Rob Godfrey argued recently that we must return to spending only on "core" functions of government. We couldn't agree more. But we disagree with the notion that the primary is not a core function.
Godfrey notes that, historically, the political nomination machinery was funded by the major parties. Yes. But things have changed; the nature of the nomination process has changed. Primaries have become a part of the public infrastructure. As such, they deserve taxpayer support.
South Carolina has fought hard to etch out its prominent place in the presidential nominating process. What a shame it would be to fritter it away.