Originally created 02/28/04

The main attraction

Georgia is one of the primary states in the 10-state Super Tuesday showdown between Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry and John Edwards.

But that is not the main attraction.

For Georgians, the presidential contest takes a back seat Tuesday to picking a state flag.

This is why, whether you are a Republican or independent who doesn't care about the presidential primary, or even a Democrat who feels Kerry has the nomination wrapped up anyway, you should still go to your polling place to cast your flag vote.

There are two banners on the ballot. One is the current red-white-and-blue flag adopted last year. The other is the 2001 flag, once accurately described by CBS news as a "visual train wreck of words, seals and stars." A prestigious flag organization voted it the ugliest state or national flag on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

But it's not just for aesthetic reasons that we urge voters to reject the 2001 flag in favor of the flag now flying. Georgians also stand to benefit economically, culturally and societally.

Heritage groups upset because the Confederate battle-emblem flag, which represented the state from 1956 to 2001, is not on the ballot are more likely to hold their fire if the current flag is approved than if the 2001 monstrosity is brought back.

The latter banner was strongly opposed by Heritage traditionalists, due to how the '56 flag was scrapped by the legislature three years ago. If the 2001 flag wins, it could renew warfare between the heritage and civil-rights movements that tore this state apart for more than a decade.

We must not return to that divisive era. Let's stick with the flag that can bring us together. The last thing Georgia needs is another embarrassing flag fight that triggers national derision and boycotts.

As for the presidential primary, Georgia looms big because if North Carolina U.S. Sen. John Edwards is to have any chance at all of catching front-running Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, he must carry this state by a large margin - and Ohio, too, even if only by a small margin.

Winning those two states, plus unexpectedly strong showings in California and New York, would at least keep Edwards' campaign alive for another week so he'd have a shot at the March 9 primaries involving four Southern states - Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas - where he should do well.

Edwards, however, would have to win more than 60 percent of the delegates still up for grabs to win the nomination by convention time in July. That's not going to happen - though it could win him the vice presidency.

What might happen, though it's a long shot, is if Edwards runs very strong for the rest of the primary and caucus season, he could prevent Kerry from getting enough delegates to lock up the nomination before the party's convention in Boston. And that would lead to the first brokered convention in more than half a century.

Hillary anyone?


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