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banner Friday, 7 January, 2000, 17:45 GMT
South Carolina

A Republican victory is not inevitable in South Carolina but they are likely to make a strong showing.

Key facts
Population: 3,698,746 (ranked 25 among states)
Governor: Jim Hodges (D)
Electoral College votes: 8
The state's relatively early Republican primary is one of the USA's most important and a key barometer of southern opinion.

Until 1998 South Carolina was predictably Republican, with a Senate seat, a Republican governor and the House speaker. But the mid-term elections halted the Republican advance. A Democrat became governor and the Republican margin in the state legislature was reduced. It showed the extent to which Democrats had succeeded in building a genuine black-and-white majority coalition.

1998 Congress
House of Representatives: 2 Democrat, 4 Republican
Senate: 1 Democrat, 1 Republican
The state remains divided between the rich, coastal resorts and the elegant splendour of Charleston on one side and inland pockets of rural poverty on the other.

The state's healthcare is now as good as that in the rest of the nation and wages are near the national average. It is largely the result of South Carolina's aggressive courting of industry from the 1970s onwards. Helped by very limited unionisation and low taxes, several major employers came to the region, most notably BMW, who built their first US assembly plant in Spartanburg in 1992.

Voting record
1996: Dole 50%, Clinton 44%
1992: Bush 48%, Clinton 40%, Perot 12%
1988: Bush 62%, Dukakis 38%
The racial discrimination and segregation that defined the state for so long has faded, although past antagonisms resurfaced during the debate about whether to keep the Confederate flag flying on the Capitol. The flag had been flying there since 1962 but was removed in July 2000.The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People had threatened a boycott of the state.

Despite the shooting of three black teenagers, church arsons and a resurgent Ku Klux Klan, the issue is so sensitive that to date the flag still flies and presidential candidates are forced to tread a fine line on the subject of race relations.

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