Frist's Quiet Trip to S.C.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) made a swing through South Carolina over the weekend as he continues to contemplate a run for president in 2008.
Frist raised cash on Friday for state Rep. Ralph Norman (R), who is challenging Democratic Rep. John Spratt in the 5th District this November. The following day he spoke to the state Republican executive committee, touching on hot-button conservative topics like judges and the "culture of life," according to one Frist aide. Frist also huddled with Jim Roquemore, a major figure in the state's agriculture community and a Republican fundraiser. Roquemore lives in Orangeburg, located in the state's Midlands region.
The State's Lee Bandy described Frist as a man who has virtually given up campaigning for the 2008 presidential election. "The Tennessee Republican came and went almost unnoticed -- which apparently was the way he wanted it," wrote Bandy, the leading political reporter in the state. "There was little advance publicity and virtually no media."
Katon Dawson, the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, took issue with Bandy's characterization of the Frist trip, insisting that Frist received as "warm a reception" as any of the other 2008 Republicans who have toured the state.
Dawson admits he is somewhat "biased" toward Frist because of the senator's work in 2002 to help elect Lindsey Graham to the Senate. Frist, at the time the head National Republican Senatorial Committee, was "always there for us and never took a lot of credit," said Dawson.
Frist has also likely won some goodwill by his willingness to donate to state and local candidates in the Palmetto State from his Volunteer PAC. Neither Frist nor any of the other 2008 Republican hopefuls have hired any staff in the state, although knowledgeable GOPers say that Chip Saltsman, a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican party, is active on Frist's behalf in the state.
As I noted during my recent swing through South Carolina, Arizona Sen. John McCain is the current GOP frontrunner in the state, with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney second in terms of both organization and buzz.
Frist certainly has laid the groundwork over the past several cycles to be a major player in the state's "first in the South" primary, but his struggles in 2005 have cast some doubt on whether he will be a viable candidate in 2008.
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