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The More The Merrier

On the Plank, Jason flagged the great Jonathan Martin piece that this South Carolina primary has been nowhere near as slimy as it was in 2000. (FYI, I'm temporarily camping out on the Stump today and tomorrow while I'm in SC.) But why?

Yesterday, when I was at the ribbon-cutting in Lexington, I talked to a county party official who said he was still undecided. He himself seemed surprised by this. "I started researching [the candidates] early, because I wanted to do more campaigning for whomever I picked, and be more firm right now," he told me. "But I keep switching. And I'm still switching." 

This isn't to say that Mr. County Big Macher would have done any dirty tricks for a candidate if he'd settled on one. But the bizarrely fluid nature of the race -- every other week a new guy with the Big Mo' -- means there hasn't been time for forces to entrench. (Who knew in October anyone would need a squad to annihilate Huckabee?) Also, the number of hopefuls still in play means the stakes are higher for getting all-out negative: If one candidate goes nuclear, there are plenty of others for disgusted voters to turn to, whereas in 2000, even if a GWB supporter in South Carolina didn't like the "black baby" stuff, he probably had enough reasons for choosing W. over McCain to stick with his choice. A three-, four-, whatever-man race can be cleaner than a two-man one.

-- Eve Fairbanks