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It could as easily have been “the Atwater mafia,” since Atwater and Campbell, as a team and starting virtually from scratch, had all but achieved one-party rule for the G. (He believed Atwater had been behind the leak of the sex scandal involving fellow TV preacher Jimmy Swaggart; it broke days before the South Carolina vote and damaged Robertson by association.) And there was Coalition executive vice president Roberta Combs, an old South Carolina pal, and Reed, who used to say that all he ever really wanted to be was a “Christian Lee Atwater.” In 1997, Reed left the Coalition for Enron. (Reed declined repeated requests to be interviewed.)Even Texans Karl Rove and George W. In 1973 a 22-year-old Atwater ran Rove’s campaign for chairman of the College Republican National Committee.

And with nearly every report about Senator John Mc Cain and the unprecedented tightrope he’s navigated, there’s been a reference to the ugliness of four years ago—the South Carolina Republican primary of 2000, the do-or-die battle of George W. Mc Cain says “it’s over,” he’s buried the hatchet, it’s no longer worth revisiting. And how does it relate to the walk in the political gutter that we’ve witnessed the last few months?

People going down for the third time, they grab on for anything they can get ahold of, and if it happens to be something nasty, rotten, and false, that doesn’t make much difference.”At a meeting of Bush’s top staff that first day, the signal went out “to take the gloves off,” magazine reported at the time.“I always knew that if Bush got in trouble he’d push the doomsday button,” a respected Washington figure with solid ties to the religious right told me, asking that his name not be used.

He said he’d been told the strategy called for an “underground campaign” by all the heavyweight groups of the Republican and Christian right, a campaign that would be modeled on Ralph Reed’s infamous, Atwater-like boast about his Christian Coalition work: “I paint my face and travel at night.

People there want government to stay out of their pockets, and their lives.