South Carolina's Early Primary Critical to Republicans Candidates

SC Rep. Catherine Ceips (R-Beaufort)
SC Rep. Catherine Ceips (R-Beaufort)

The starting line for the White House race 2008 has been moved up again. The South Carolina Republican Party announced today it'll hold its presidential primary on January 19.

So we can expect more presidential hopefuls coming our way in these last few months.

Republican leaders in the Palmetto State say this is a big deal since, traditionally, the Republican candidate who wins South Carolina wins the nomination.

In fact, a party spokesman told us the state has a well-deserved reputation of picking presidents. So the now-familiar faces of Republican presidential hopefuls have been seen a lot in South Carolina this year.

"They are all scrambling to get here, cause historically South Carolina has always picked the Republican nominee for the nation," said South Carolina Sen. Catherine Ceips, a Republican from Beaufort.

In fact, since 1980, no Republican has won the nomination without first winning South Carolina. Ceips says that's because her state's voters are informed. "Our folks pretty much do a lot of research," she told us. "And I think that's why we're so successful in picking the Republican nominee. Our people are tuned in."

And they're tuning in a bit early this year. The South Carolina Republican Party is committed to holding the first presidential primary in the South. And that fact is not lost on the candidates, who've made plenty of trips to the Palmetto State.

They're vying for the job in what Ceips calls a critical election year.

"Our world has changed since 9/11," she said. "We cannot forget that we are still a nation at war. And those global implications have a lot to do with the White House, a lot to do with who's elected. And I think it's going to be one of the most important our lifetime."

And she's sure South Carolina voters will pick another winner.

Unlike in most states, the parties pick the primary dates in South Carolina, and the Democratic primary is on January 29. They have no plans to change an already early primary.

The early dates have set up kind of a chain reaction in other key state.

New Hampshire, by state law, has to hold its presidential primary at least seven days earlier than any other state. The secretary of state has not yet made a decision, but the earliest date would be January 12.

And Iowa is proud of its "first in the nation" status. Not first primary, but first caucus. That's a gathering of registered party members to make decisions, and by state law comes at least eight days prior to the earliest primary on a Monday.

However, since in Iowa the parties organize and fund the caucuses with no involvement from the state government, one interpretation is that they are not bound by that law and could have their caucuses any time.

Reported by: Charles Gray,