Matt Towery

Six years after South Carolina officials removed the Confederate battle flag from atop the state capitol dome in Columbia, debate over the compromise that lowered the flag has been revived by a famous football coach.

Today the flag can be found near a monument on the capitol grounds. But University of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told a gathering in Colombia last weekend that it would be better for the state if the flag were removed from the capitol grounds altogether.

So we asked South Carolinians this question in our latest InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion Research survey:

"Do you favor or oppose removing the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state capitol?"

Favor -- 41 percent

Oppose -- 49 percent

Undecided/No opinion -- 10 percent

The poll was conducted on April 15 and 16. The telephone sample of 500 registered voters in South Carolina has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. The poll is weighted for age, race, gender and political affiliation.

While the newest flag flap will have no impact on the Democratic race for the White House, it has the potential to create real problems for Republicans seeking the presidency. And just as irritating to South Carolinians, it revives an issue they believed had been put to bed years ago.

For Democratic candidates in the key presidential primary state of South Carolina, the issue will be a no-brainer. African-Americans comprise almost half of the voters in South Carolina's Democratic primary. Nearly all will fully back the coach and his remarks, and so will the Democratic candidates.

The problem comes when one examines the roughly 70 percent of poll respondents who identified themselves as Republicans, and who said they opposed removing the flag. Some GOP presidential candidates, such as Sen. John McCain, have been all over the board on this issue. Others, such as Mitt Romney, have already sided with the concept of "leave it up to the state." But it won't be that easy.

Fresh from having destroyed radio shock jock Don Imus, the Jesse Jackson-Al Sharpton road show will almost undoubtedly appear in South Carolina at some point, demanding the flag be removed. The whole thing likely will be just too noisy for the state -- and some presidential candidates -- to ignore. And if anyone doubts Jackson's and Sharpton's ability to shake things up, the Imus incident proves they still have considerable influence, whether their detractors like it or not.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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