Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Obama and Dems face tough history in SC

Recently, the Obama campaign made it known it will compete in every state in some fashion. That excited South Carolina Democrats, who seem to believe that their high turnout in the Presidential primary and their efforts to register new voters will turn South Carolina into Obama country come November.

While I will not state that such is impossible, the history of South Carolina Presidential voting makes it improbable.

In the past 44 years, South Carolina has only awarded the Democratic nominee its electoral votes twice. Once was in 1960, when John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon by less then 10,000 votes among nearly 400,000 votes cast. The second victory was in 1976, when Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford. Carter was the former Governor of Georgia and had the Southern Democrat identity going for him at the time.

In every other election since, the Republican nominee has won the South Carolina electoral vote, often by a large margin. Indeed, in 1968, the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey finished third. Further, if one looks at the numbers since 1948, when Strom Thurmond defeated Harry Truman in South Carolina, only Kennedy, Carter and Stevenson won a majority of votes in South Carolina. Stevenson won a slim majority in 1952 but gained no majority in 1956, only a plurality.

Thus, only three times in 60 years have South Carolinians by a majority embraced a Democratic nominee for President of the United States. That is the history that the Democrats face this fall. Even the weak candidacy of Bob Dole against then President Clinton garnered a solid win over Clinton in South Carolina.

I realize that Democrats see this election year as a perfect storm. Democrats saw the same in 1992, when an unpopular President Bush won South Carolina and an unknown named Bob Inglis defeated incumbent Liz Patterson for a US House seat. While 2008 might prove to be another perfect national storm for the Democrats, South Carolina Democrats are up against too much history and too many numbers to believe that they can make South Carolina an Obama state.

Obama's campaign has made all the right moves over the past few months and has one helluva ground campaign. However, because the people around Obama are so smart, I think they will read the numbers and not make a major play for South Carolina. Chances are they can win the White House without South Carolina and can better spend their resources elsewhere. When all is said and done, the Obama campaign will leave the South Carolina Democratic party with a lot of rhetoric and very little resources. Sixty years of numbers just do not justify the smart money being bet on a long shot like South Carolina for Obama. South Carolina will again be a state in which the VP candidates might show up, but one in which both parties encourage their foot soldiers to go work elsewhere.

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