Confederate flag shadows '08 candidates

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COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Seven years after the Confederate flag was moved from South Carolina's Statehouse dome, it still shadows visiting presidential candidates.

The banner -- a symbol of Southern pride to some and racism to others -- continues to fly near the Capitol, just feet from one of this city's busiest streets...

[It is] never more visible to the rest of the nation than every four years when White House hopefuls troop through this early primary state and field questions about the flag. Candidates typically arrive with similar, scripted answers that only vary depending on their party affiliation.

During the first Democratic candidates' debate held last month in Orangeburg, S.C., Sen. Barack Obama said the flag belonged in a museum. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has said it should be taken down, and Sen. Joe Biden and Sen. Chris Dodd both attended this year's NAACP King Day at the Dome rally in January, an annual event aimed at the flag's removal.

Republicans, who will gather here Tuesday for a debate, typically echo the statement that earned George Bush cheers in 2000 before he won the state's primary en route to the White House. ''I believe the people of South Carolina can figure out what to do with this flag issue,'' Bush said.

During a campaign stop last month, Rudy Giuliani called it a ''state issue,'' saying, ''the state made a decision about the flag and another state may make a different decision about the flag.''

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