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Flagging an ideologically pure GOP


When observers consider the political damage the flag vote in the House last week will do to a party, they're always talking about the Democrats. Namely, will the decision by white Democrats to side with white Republicans to put a racially offensive symbol on the ballot hurt black turnout in 2004?

But what does it stand to do to Republicans?

That all depends on whether the so-called compromise flag that will fly once it's passed by the General Assembly survives a March referendum vote by Georgians. If it doesn't, there will be another vote to be held on the July primary date. The second referendum would give voters a choice between the pre-1956 flag and the accessory of choice at many a cross-burning -- the post-1956 flag with its Confederate battle emblem.

This is where the sinister rubbing of Democratic House leadership hands begin. If there is a second vote, it will bring a loyal contingent to the polls, a loyal contingent -- and OK, this is a broad generalization -- that has a hankering for candidates well to the right of the political dial. And that could increase the likelihood that right-wing Republicans will win the nominations of their respective primary races and therefore diminish GOP chances against centrist Democrats in the November general.

The obvious casualty if such a strategy works is moderate U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson, who plans to run for Zell Miller's Senate seat. The ideologically pure of the GOP are busy recruiting a conservative (read: ultra pro-life) candidate to run against Isakson. State Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Sharpsburg, and Congressman Jack Kingston have been mentioned. Neither has committed.

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