Home > Election 2008 > Barack’s South Carolina Win

Barack’s South Carolina Win

January 28th, 2008

We all pretty much expected Obama to win in SC, the question was always “by how much”? And the answer, “by double what Hillary got,” is the unexpected and buoying answer for Obama. The polls, on average, had Clinton’s and Edwards’ numbers about right. Reuters/C-Span/Zogby, SurveyUSA, Mason-Dixon, Clemson, and Rasmussen’s pre-primary results averaged out to put Clinton at 27% and Edwards at 19%; their actual results were 27% and 18%, very close indeed. Obama, however, was predicted to get 38%, but actually got 55%–meaning that in this state, virtually all the undecideds went to him. High voter turnout, especially among young voters, also seems to have helped him, as it did in Iowa.

The question is, what effect will this have? Will this buoy Obama’s campaign in other states? Will it give him the push he so badly needs to get past Hillary’s numbers elsewhere?

One important point here is that we’ve got a candidate who could potentially win many southern states for us; turnout by Democrats was much greater than it was for Republicans in their contest in SC last week. Whatever strength Hillary may deliver in Democratic circles, she will almost certainly lose most if not all of the South. This all highlights another significant strength of the Obama campaign, and a reason to doubt Hillary’s I’ve-got-a-political-machine strength.

The news over the past twelve hours that first, Caroline Kennedy (with an elegant op-ed titled, “A President Like My Father”), and later, Ted Kennedy (the party elder and powerful political broker) have endorsed Obama certainly can’t hurt his campaign, either–almost certainly timed to add to Obama’s momentum after his big win yesterday. There are whispers now from the Obama campaign that Obama would award Edwards the spot of Attorney General should Obama win, a spot Edwards no doubt would covet; some see this as a hint that Edwards might throw in with Obama should his campaign ultimately fail, as it no doubt will.

The SC contest also brings into question the whole “Hillary is a fighter” idea–that she can withstand the barrage of right-wing attacks and come out the better. Here, she was obviously the one running the dirty campaign, and not only did Obama’s high-road strategy win out, but showed that he can survive the smearing just as well.

I have to say, what the Clintons did this week left a definite bad taste in my mouth. Campaigning against someone, okay; even getting negative may have its points; but the Clintons went beyond that, they went over a line: they out-and-out lied, knowingly, about Obama’s words and actions. They went beyond playing rough and clearly strayed into playing dirty. At that point in the debate where Hillary insisted that Obama voiced approval for Republican policies–knowing full well that he did nothing of the sort, with Hillary pushing what was a clear and knowing lie–that brought me to feel strongly that Hillary was not a good candidate. This wasn’t just stretching the truth, or making an error in interpretation; this was purposefully taking a quote out of context and baldly asserting that it meant something that it clearly didn’t. “We can give you the exact quote,” she said, knowing that this would give the impression of an absolutely verifiable truth without having to actually supply a quote that clearly proved her point.

Bill Clinton did no better, acting as the ultimate Hillary surrogate and trying to drag down Obama in a mudfight. His worst tactic: trying to reduce Obama to “the black candidate.” His later dismissal of Obama’s win as being like Jesse Jackson’s was seen as a similar crude condescension–comparing Obama to someone seen as unelectable, who did run as the “black candidate,” more or less. TPM points out that Jackson won in SC partly because it’s his home state, and partly because the SC caucus at that time came after the nomination had been more or less locked up, and so Jackson was not really campaigned against much. A lot of Democrats resented Clinton’s tack even before that snipe, and that likely had a part to play in today’s results.

What a lot of people will probably not see is the fact that Hillary was leading in SC as recently as last November; Obama definitely has had the momentum in this state. The same turn has been happening nationwide since last Fall; even in states like Florida and California, where Hillary has a wide lead, one can see a definite trending to Obama, and a similar trend away from Hillary.

Will South Carolina accelerate this trend? Will Obama receive the same kind of bump he got after Iowa?

Another issue coming up is Hillary playing the fake-out dirty trick with Michigan and Florida–first signing the promise to not be in those races, but then campaigning there anyway–and now she’s insisting that both states’ delegates be counted. In effect, she acted like she’d move out of those races with other other candidates, and then when the others did as they’d promised, she jumped back in and now wants them both to count. It brings to mind an episode of House last season, when the character fondly referred to as “cutthroat bitch” got a half-dozen or so candidates for the job to quit by pretending to quit herself, but then she snuck back and put herself back in the race. Hillary essentially did the same thing. It may work, but it still demonstrates a fundamental unfairness.

In short, Hillary may be proving herself to be an effective fighter, but more and more she is showing herself to be the kind of politician I am not nearly as excited to see take the White House. At the same time, Obama is proving himself to be more electable as well as more worthy of the nomination.

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  1. Tim Kane
    January 28th, 2008 at 13:40 | #1

    Congratulations to Obama for his big win.

    That said, I don’t see where Obama can bring in more southern states than Clinton can in a general election. Essentially they draw from the same constituency.

    Yes, he could possibly win over many Southern states, and the sun might not come up tomorrow, but just who is it that he would be winning over?

    South Carolina’s democrats are over 50% black, if memory serves. When Obama won Iowa, he won South Carolina. Many blacks simply didn’t believe that white people would vote for a black candidate. His victory in Iowa signaled to blacks in South Carolina that a black candidate could get white people to vote for him. And so all those black voter’s switched from Clinton, whose husband they’d called ‘the first black President’ to Obama.

    That’s how Obama won South Carolina – He got black people to vote for him in huge percentages. Yes he did get white people there to vote for him too. But I don’t see how that makes him so Unique of a democratic candidate that he could suddenly win over a bunch of southern states, unless some demographic quake happened in the last four years that I don’t know about. Those blacks who voted for Obama voted for Kerry and Gore and that alone wasn’t enough to win the southern states. So I just don’t see how your analysis pans out.

    What you say about the Clintons this week I do agree with, strongly. That Jesse Jackson comment just was off the charts and way out of bounds. I found that to be absurdly offensive. Really it’s unforgivable. And the stunt that Hillary’s campaign pulled in Michigan and Florida is almost equally offensive and very rovian/bush.

    Clinton is really turning out to be poisonous for the Democrats. She energizes and unites the Republicans and she divides and discourages Democrats. If nothing else, this week has demonstrated that.

    My hope is that Edwards stays in the race until the end. Maybe he’ll pull out a miracle. If Bill Clinton opens his mouth a few more times maybe the race will become a two person race between Obama and Edwards. In politics, anything can happen.

    Now something more important is going to happen tomorrow night. Sebelius, the governor of Kansas is giving the rebutal to Bush’s state of the Union address.

    It’s hard to believe, but this maybe more important than anything else.

    We’ve heard a lot about “What’s the Matter with Kansas”. Many people don’t know that Sebelius is the democratic governor of Kansas, and she has slowly successfully been turning that very red state blue. She has successfully brought big name Republicans to switch parties in that state.

    This is more important than who among Edwards, Obama and Clinton get the nomination.

    In his book, “The Anatomy of Fascism” Prof. of Political Science Robert O. Paxton happens to also define the anatomy of Swedish socialism. He sees it as an alignment of rural interest and urban worker’s interests. When one considers liberalism else where, especially across the continent of Europe and its very expensive Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), one sees the same alignment.

    The Democratic losses in 2000 and 2004 are manly a result of Bush sweeping all the rural states and picking up a few urban ones, like Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. The bigoted Southern states are, as LBJ said, lost for a generation, maybe two.

    But if Bush hadn’t had a lock on rural Great Plains, upper Mid-West and Inter-Mountain states, then he doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance of getting elected.

    The rural states of the upper Mid-West, including the Great Plains are now in play. Furthermore, they have been withering for most of the Post World War II era. But those same states are positioned to provide energy, be it liquified coal, nuclear, bio-mass, wind, and solar to the urban industrial states. Because the Republican party is captured by the petroleum interests, they can’t offer those states anything but heterosexual marriage.

    I see the energy situation as a way to tie the northern rural states with the urban industrial states in a symbiotic relationship regarding energy, one producing it, the other consuming. The long decay of states like the Dakota’s could be reversed.

    This of course is where Sebelius comes in.

    If she is attached to the Democratic ticket, I see most of the Great Plains states (including Montana) going democratic. Had Governor Richardson managed to have gotten the nomination, then the mathematics gets even better because he would have locked up the Inter-mountain states. At that point the only republican states left are the south, Idaho and Utah.

    If Clinton gets the nomination, I’m not sure two women on the ticket is wise. In that case either Richardson or Schwietzer (Gov. of Montana) would be a better choice. Probably Schwietzer would be better because I’m hearing that Clinton has locked up the hispanic vote already.

    So I think that the Sebelius speech tomorrow night is a big surprise and a very strong hint that the Democrats are starting to realize the strategic opportunities that are out there. To Republican strategist, the notion has to be making them pause.

    I see the next Democratic President doing for the Great Plains what FDR did for the south. (If you recall, the South experienced an 80 year depression that began with the Civil War and lasted right up and into FDRs presidency). The combination of which created our first liberal era. This time the notion won’t be so hard.

    Obama’s a gifted politician. But I don’t see how he could change the equation in the Southern states. I am from a border state that has no shortage of confederate flags and war memorials in it. It’s not impossible, but highly improbably that he could do better in the south then, say, Gore, a southerner, let alone, Kerry. Likewise, He won’t create any coat tails down their either. The narrative of him being a Muslim Manchurian Candidate is more likely to succeed than there (and for the record, I think that Edwards could get a few Southern states – maybe Arkansas, Virginia and one other near northern state – but I am not kidding myself, Edwards didn’t help Kerry one bit in the South last time – LBJ’s analysis still holds). But the Great Plains would and could provide the kind of support that FDR got from the south, if the relationship was reciprical . And that could pave the way for a great presidency and a new golden age of liberalism in the United States and the world.

    Anyway, tomorrow is Bush’s last state of the union speech, and let’s hope Sebelius slams the door on him good and hard.

  2. Geoff
    January 28th, 2008 at 18:34 | #2

    I agree. The analysis I’ve seen from SC had Obama winning 80% of the black vote and about 25% of the white vote. Unlike Iowa, the news from SC is that his appeal *didn’t* cross races very much, and identity politics ruled.

    That said, he’d still be a stronger candidate than Hilary against a moderate Republican (i.e. McCain).

  3. January 28th, 2008 at 18:35 | #3

    Just Like Her Daddy and Worse

    The Princess Royal of the Kennedy clan, who has herself accomplished nothing in life except being born to wealth and privilege, has draped her father’s moth-eaten cloak on Barack Obama, who, in her father’s White House, would have been a footman or cook. Say what you will about Obama, he got there himself without the benefit of a rich daddy or corrupt political machine. He may be more unprepared to be president and more disastrous for this country than was JFK, but we hope, at least, that he will be impervious to “love notes” from middle-aged political camp followers who are still trying to be influential without ever being relevant.

    Tomorrow the black sheep of the family, Sen. Ted Kennedy, will follow in his niece Caroline’s footsteps and endorse Obama at American University. It is still possible that some Kennedy cousin might endorse Hillary; perhaps the other murderer or the rapist.


  4. Luis
    January 28th, 2008 at 21:51 | #4

    Tim: What you’re missing is the youth vote, and the voter turnout in general. Obama can bring those out, and those are what help win elections. Obama got more than the top two Republican candidates combined, in a state that usually votes Republican. That says a lot. That won’t win southern states for Hillary, but it will for Obama. Obama will win more or the white vote there than even Hillary would, on the basis of Obama bringing in more independents and undecideds. He can carry SC and at least a few other southern states, I will wager, and that can help make all the difference. The last time SC went Democratic was in 1960, for Kennedy.

  5. Tim Kane
    January 29th, 2008 at 03:46 | #5

    Call me skeptical.

    The Democrats have always had the youth vote. It’s never been enough – even with the baby boom back in the late 60s and early 70s. Times change, I realize that. The youth of today, many of the youth who will make their first vote, have gone from having a great inheretence and a great future in before them, in January 2001, to staring into a future filled with disaster, futility and ruin in 2008. In the past, youth never turned out to vote with the numbers that one finds from the elderly.

    You’ll have to excuse me for being cynical. What you are foreseeing is unprecedented. That sort of thing didn’t keep the Wright brothers from flying, but I am not comfortable with winging things. So much of what Obama represents looks like that. I prefer more substance over rhetoric, and strategic and systematic approach over the ‘one man’ theory.

    I also feel the times are most desperate. We are playing with fire, and no one knows how much rope we have left.

    I believe the greatest calamities are caused by concentration of wealth and power (and the wealthy and powerful using their influence to avoid paying taxes effectively collapsing the commercial economy and the finances of the state/society).

    Over time I’ve seen evidence that this caused the collapse of ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom (albiet on the History Channel), Rome, Byzantium, Medieval Japan, Hapsburg Spain, Bourbon France, Romanov Russia and the Great Depression, caused by Republican policies in America which triggered the rise of Hitler, World War II and the holocaust. Then there’s the massive amount of unnecessary suffering such policies produce. They aren’t just unwise, they are immoral.

    The only candidate demonstrating true urgency and seriousness in these areas is Edwards. Obama’s commitment to this is suspect in my mind, and relying strictly upon persuasion against the parties causing these circumstances as ‘unefficable’ is very suspect in my mind. Of course I could be all wrong – but why chance things?

    Edwards was the only one serious enough to produce policy statements addressing these issues in advance. The others only did so in reaction to Edwards, and then when they did, they announced plans that resembled Edward’s plan, but with less commitment towards their ends. It’s as if they really don’t get it. It’s as if their run for office is all about them.

    If Obama can do all that you say he can do, great. I don’t see it happening, because it’s never happened before. Also, if it becomes evident that he can do what you are suggesting, history tells me the cost of his life insurance policy will go up. Way up.

    I am cynical, I realize that. I want real gains that can’t be easily reversed or eliminated by one lone crazed right-wing ‘three named’ wing-nut who wants to make a name for himself. To me Edwards delivers the promise of a pragmatic strategic politics with total commitment to the policies that are imperative for sustain our society and it’s way of life. If the convention becomes a brokered one, he could turn out to be the nominee, or perhaps we could see Gore re-emerge. If Obama gets the nod, I’ll pull right in behind him and hope for the best. I will be hoping and wishing and looking for your analysis to pull through.

    If Hillary gets the nod, I’ll try to forget all the negatives and remember how well run the nation was under Bill the first time. I think she would win, but it won’t be a land slide. If she wins I will try to forget completely about politics for a while. I don’t have high expectations for her. I expect status quo, only marginally better while she prepares for the next Bush to come along & replace her. The worst thing about Bill was that he paved the way for George and that pretty much destroys all of his achievements.

  6. Stuart
    January 29th, 2008 at 07:08 | #6

    In the break-down by race, Obama got 52% of the 18-29 non-black vote while Edwards and Clinton both got around 25%. Obama didn’t do as well at the older ages, but it was Edwards who picked up most of the difference, not Clinton.

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