Originally created 04/09/04

Senate hopeful sticks to message

COLUMBIA - Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Inez Tenenbaum has her eye on key voters who sit on the political fence and has begun to stake out some middle ground.

While Mrs. Tenenbaum sticks to her message about the economy, education and health care, the state education superintendent hasn't hesitated to state her conservatism on hot-button social issues.

She favors the death penalty, supports a ban on gay marriage and agreed with President Bush on the decision to invade Iraq.

Mrs. Tenenbaum is going after voters who are likely to vote for Mr. Bush again.

The president got 58 percent of the vote in South Carolina in 2000.

"She's clearly expecting them to split their tickets," said Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon. "To do that, she has to differentiate herself from the national party."

Mrs. Tenenbaum, who faces little competition in the primary, can set the tone of the race while her Republican counterparts fight it out in a six-way race to get the nomination to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings.

Former Attorney General Charlie Condon and Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride are courting independent voters by pointing out their differences with the Republican establishment.

"There may be some that's trying to track the crossover, but if you do that, you always run the danger of losing the Republican faithful," Mr. Huffmon said.

Primaries always draw the most active people in each party.

For the GOP, that means conservative voters are likely to turn out June 8.

"The more you dance to the center, the more you run the possibility of angering the party faithful," Mr. Huffmon said.

As Mrs. Tenenbaum lines up with her Republican opponents on some social issues, she has defused early attempts to paint her a liberal, political observers say.

"The fact that she can start talking about it on her own initiative rather than wait for someone to bring it up in the campaign, I think, gives her some credibility that she's not just shaping a message to appeal to people, that she's actually saying something that she really thinks," said Furman University political scientist Danielle Vinson.

"Neither party has the majority. There are a large block of independent voters who are your swing voter, so you try to be the moderate that I am," Mrs. Tenenbaum said. "I have attracted not only that independent voter, but also Republican voters."


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