Rebel Yell

First came the arrest of 21 year-old Dylann Roof for the horrendous, hate-filled church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina that claimed the lives of nine people at Bible study class. Soon after came photos of Roof proudly displaying the Confederate flag on white supremacist websites.

Now there's a call to remove the Confederate battle flag from in front of the South Carolina state capitol. Here's the problem for Republicans running for President: South Carolina has a crucial early primary. They don't want to offend conservative white voters who they'll need to win. Many of those voters view the Confederate flag as a symbol of historical pride and sacrifice. If that's what it's about you might expect the 28% of South Carolina's population that's African-American to agree. But it's fair to say not many get the warm and fuzzies when they gaze up at the Confederate flag.

So what's a candidate to do?  Most of the Republican field is punting. They're saying they don't like the flag personally, but it's up to the people of South Carolina to decide. Only Mitt Romney says the Confederate battle flag is a "symbol of racial hatred" and should come down. But he's not running. Jeb Bush says South Carolina should follow his state of Florida's example: the rebel flag should come down and be displayed in a museum instead.

This stand may cost him in South Carolina, but benefit him in other states. Could it be a classic case of losing the battle but winning the war?

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