The Democrats had a lot of confidence after the election of President Barack Obama last fall. Almost a year later, Obama’s approval numbers are slipping, yet South Carolina Democrats are still feeling confident about the election in 2010, mostly because of Governor Mark Sanford and the damage Sanford has done to the Republican brand. But, the wisest Democrat of all might be Columbia Mayor Bob Coble.
Coble will have served twenty years as Mayor of Columbia when his current term expires next year. His decision not to seek re-election allows him to ride off into the sunset as the toast of the town without a bruising campaign. Whether Coble won or lost against Benjamin in 2010, chances are he would have been remembered more for what was shaping up to be a bruising political battle than Coble’s years of service to Columbia. By choosing to retire, Coble will be remembered and honored. Coble also cleared the way for Steve Benjamin to become the next mayor of Columbia. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, the former Democratic nominee for Attorney General will be the next Mayor of Columbia.
However, there is no way of knowing just who will emerge from the Democratic primary for Governor of South Carolina. State Superintendant of Education Jim Rex threw his hat into the ring Monday as Mayor Coble was throwing his hat out. Rex’s entry means that the Democrats, who frankly needed a united front to stand a chance, even with Sanford, in claiming the Governor’s post have a real fight on their hands. Rex joins long time political insider and lobbyist Dwight Drake, State Senators Vincent Sheheen and Robert Ford and some attorney from Charleston. Unlike 1998, there are real divisions in the South Carolina Democratic Party and those divisions could give Republicans a break even with the Sanford mess.
From what VUI understands, most of the divisions are personal. Drake entered because some Columbia insiders do not like the Sheheen family. Rex entered because he is still upset over Inez Tennenbaum getting his spot as a delegate to last year’s Democratic National Convention. Robert Ford, well he is running because Sanford allies will bankroll him to act the fool. Attorney Nelson McLeod, well, he is running just to run.
The bottom line on Mondays’ developments is simple. In Columbia city politics, Democrats have their act together and are moving to honor the old legend and avoid the big fight so the new guy can move in without a bruising battle. On the state level, Democrats are gearing up for a good old fashioned brawl, which will result in a weakened nominee in the fall, and give Republicans back the Governor’s Mansion, no matter with the Love Guv does.