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OUR VIEW: Clinton, Obama visit to Selma huge for state

On Sunday, our state will be thrust into the national spotlight as a key player for the 2008 presidential election when Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton visit Selma.

The Legislature’s decision to move our primary elections up gives Alabama added exposure in the presidential race. And while some believe this exposure will be limited if Florida and California move up to join us, we believe they are wrong.

South Carolina is the Southern state with the earliest presidential primary. After that comes Florida and Alabama. As Southern states go, Florida is an anomaly. That leaves South Carolina and Alabama.

Since 1976, when Jimmy Carter was elected president, Democrats have struggled in the South. Republican presidential nominees have used the Southern strategy &045; winning the South as a block &045; to take the White House five out of the last seven elections.

But today, Democrats see more hope. The war has changed the face of the face of national politics, as have scandals and a growing national debt. The last round of congressional elections was proof of a troubling trend for Republicans and an encouraging sign for Democrats.

Now, Democrats hope to take that momentum to win a rare presidential election &045; one where the incumbent is term-limited and the vice president is not seeking a promotion. To do that, winning in the South &045; in a state, say, like Alabama &045; will be key. Democrats must break up the solid political base the Republicans have built here.

With an early primary in Alabama, our voters will help tell the nation which presidential candidates we like the best. Clinton and Obama understand this dynamic.

This weekend, Alabama and our neighbors in Selma will be put in the spotlight. The impact on our newfound political influence will be tremendous. We should not waste this opportunity, but use it wisely as we cast our votes in either primary election.