About a year ago, a candidate considering running for statewide office as a Democrat approached one of the staff of VUI. That potential candidate was excited about the election of Barack Obama and went on about how Obama’s election “changed things.” A year ago, the thought of a Democrat running in South Carolina with the help of President Obama was palatable. Today, that candidate is not running and Democrats in South Carolina are scrambling to redefine themselves.
Instead of 2010 being a banner year for Democrats in South Carolina, it is starting to look like 1994. A Democrat is in the White House, but that President pushed too hard, too fast, in all the wrong ways, and faces below 50 percent approval nationally. While President Obama does not suffer the downright hate that Bill Clinton faced in South Carolina in 1994, the Obama star has faded. South Carolina Democrats are back to distancing themselves from the national party.
“I am a South Carolina Democrat,” more than one Democratic candidate for state office can be quoted as saying. Rep. Ott’s response to Governor Sanford’s State of the State seemed to set the tone. Ott talked about Republicans spending too much money and not being conservative with taxpayer dollars. It was like Ott was trying to out Republican them.
Other Democrats want to dwell on the Sanford saga instead of embracing the Obama Administration. Mark Sanford and his eccentricities are the issue to those Democrats, not President Obama. Expect Democrats to take what is called the “Ben Jones” approach. Ben Jones, who starred as “Cooter” in the Dukes of Hazzard television show, won two terms in Congress from Georgia as a Democrat. Jones coined the Southern Democrat approach by running campaigns that embraced “we in the South like our guns, like to get our kids educated and like to take care of mama and them.”
Rep. Ott’s response to Governor Sanford’s State of the State sounded a lot more like ole Cooter then it did President Obama. The question Democratic candidates in South Carolina face is will that approach work in 2010? There is a lot of angst out there against both political parties, and the ongoing battle between so called Republican “purists” and those that they dub “RINOs” could take its toll. Despite that fact, when Democratic candidates face the voters in November, they bring President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid with them. As such, South Carolina Democratic candidates are likely to spend as much time trying to get the national Democratic albatross off their necks as they do running against their Republican opponents. What a difference a year makes.