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Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris, Kelly Doherty and Joanna Schubert of The CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.



Taped From South Carolina, It's A Democratic Debate!: The nine declared Democratic presidential candidates gather on Saturday night in Columbia, S.C., for a debate organized by the state party during its annual convention. There will be virtually no live coverage of the debate which is sponsored by the South Carolina Democratic Party, produced by ABC News and moderated by George Stephanopoulos.

News Channel 8 in D.C. is the only place so far that will carry it live. About 40 ABC affiliates will air it at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday and C-Span will show it several times on Sunday.

The debate, which runs from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. will takes place at the University of South Carolina. The late start time was set so that Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an Orthodox Jew who observes the Sabbath, could participate.

Attending the debate - which comes on the heels of the first all-candidate gathering at the Children's Defense Fund forum in Washington on April 10 - will be former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Lieberman and Rev. Al Sharpton.

Following a free-for-all roundtable, each candidate will get 30 seconds in which to ask a rival a question. The responses will be no more than one minute. The order of questions: Kerry, Graham, Lieberman, Braun, Edwards, Dean, Kucinich, Sharpton and Gephardt. There are no limits on the number of questions each candidate can receive, and there are no rebuttals. (Most of the press corps, of course, will be wondering if Dean will challenge the others to a duel after the event.)

Following the candidate-to-candidate questions, the moderator will ask each contender specific questions. While there are no opening statements, each candidate will present a closing statement, in the following order: Kucinich, Braun, Edwards, Graham, Gephardt, Dean, Sharpton, Lieberman and Kerry.

The debate isn't the only event in Columbia over the weekend. On Friday night, the state party holds its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner with keynote speaker Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. The same night, Rep. James Clyburn – one of the state's most powerful Democrats and self-proclaimed kingmaker of the state's primary – hosts his annual fish fry. On Saturday afternoon, party members will gather at the state fairgrounds for meetings. All three events will be long on presidential candidates.

In addition, the candidates will give brief remarks to the convention from 2 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Lieberman, who will be observing the Sabbath, will appear in a pre-taped video.

Clyburn, in a conference call with reporters on Thursday, said he hopes South Carolina's early primary date will help increase its influence on national politics.

"We in South Carolina are going to help shape debate for the leadership of this country, I think, for the next five years," said an optimistic Clyburn. He'll need a lot of optimism. No Democratic presidential candidate has carried South Carolina since 1976.

Retired, But Still Causing a Stir: At 100 years old, former Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., may be out of the public eye, but his legacy is causing a ruckus in his home state.

First, some of South Carolina's black lawmakers are up in arms after the release of the 2003 state Legislative Manual, complaining its back cover features pictures of Thurmond from his segregationist days.

The front cover shows a recent portrait of Thurmond, which Democratic State Sens. Robert Ford and Darrell Jackson are OK with, reports the Columbia State. It's the photos on the back, showing Thurmond as a baby and a WWII soldier, which they say are offensive.

Ford said the portrait on the front is of the Thurmond who spent the last quarter-century reaching out to African-Americans.

"They destroyed that on the back with the picture of Strom Thurmond, the racist segregationist," Ford added.

"This is the old Strom Thurmond," Jackson told the AP. "It's difficult, as we live in this new century, to be constantly reminded of the past."

Republicans say they deliberately didn't choose any photos from Thurmond's controversial 1948 Dixiecrat presidential campaign and were just trying to honor the man who served 46 years in the U.S. Senate.

"Frankly, I am tired of people using Strom Thurmond as the whipping boy of South Carolina," said Republican State Sen. John Courson.

This comes a day after state Republicans complained about a fund-raising letter written by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards in which he calls Thurmond's 1948 campaign "racist."

"I am certain you were just as angry as I was when [former Republican Leader Trent] Lott implied the country would be better off if Strom Thurmond's racist presidential race had prevailed," Edwards wrote.

"It is no wonder that the rest of America has such a stereotypical view of Southerners. You and I must show America that the Old South of Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond is in the past, and the New South can produce true leaders who can unite and not divide us."

South Carolina Republicans called the letter "disrespectful" and are demanding Edwards apologize.

D-Day Is Right Around The Corner: White House political czar Karl Rove told some midwestern fundraisers that former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar would decide "within days" whether to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.

According to the Chicago Sun Times' Michael Sneed, Rove said "it's no secret that George W. Bush and Jim Edgar are close personal friends who have the highest regard for each other."

Rove also said that if Edgar decides not to run, "financial whiz Jack Ryan, who gave up investment banking to teach in an inner- city Catholic school, and new state GOP chair Judy Baer would be next in line."

Don't Say You Weren't Warned: Sid Blumenthal's forthcoming book, "The Clinton Wars" contains a number of juicy anecdotes, but one of the most telling takes place on Inauguration Day 1997.

President Clinton had finished his speech with a quote from the late Chicago Cardinal Bernadin saying "It is hard to waste the precious gift of time on acrimony and division." People on the podium warmly shook the president's hand, Blumenthal reports, but Chief Justice Rehnquist had been "chilly and expressionless toward the president throughout the morning."

Following the speech, Rehnquist turned to speak to Mr. Clinton. "Good luck, " he said. "You'll need it."

Hillary figured it out. "They are going to screw you on the Paula Jones case, " she said while the president waved to the crowd.

Quote Of The Day: "I think Ed Bradley and I are on the same telepathic wavelength because he's getting married, too." --Hunter S. Thompson, who just married his longtime assistant, Anita. They'll honeymoon in Las Vegas. (New York Post)

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