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South Carolina Democrats Excited About Being Real Players

July 10, 2008South Carolina is the nation’s most Republican state in presidential election years.

It ranks right up there along side Idaho and Utah.

The last time South Carolina voted Democrat was in 1976 when former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter ran for president.

With U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois heading their ticket in 2008, Democrats are hopeful.

In the last 40 years or so, Democrats have seen the South shift away from them to embrace the GOP.

Democrats have written off the South as a lost cause in the last two presidential elections. As a result, the Democrats failed to carry one single southern state.

The Obama campaign sees the South as a real opportunity and is taking steps to shore up its southern flank.

Obama’s people are bullish on the South.

They have signaled their aggressiveness with campaign appearances in key southern states, purchased early television advertisements, and established major voter registration drives across the region.

Obama’s southern strategy relies almost entirely on increasing black registration and turnout.

In South Carolina alone there are 250,000 unregistered black voters, which presents a real opportunity for the Obama campaign.

Democrats have typically written off southern states, effectively putting their candidate in a real bind.

That means they need to win 70 percent of the rest of the electoral votes, says Emory University political scientist Merle Black.

For the first time in decades, South Carolina Democrats are excited about their chances of being real players in the presidential election.

The early signs are encouraging. They’ve put Republicans to shame, if not on alert.

In the presidential primary, more Democrats than Republicans participated. Democratic turnout was up 80 percent. Republicans participation was down 25 percent..

Black turnout more than doubled.

With Obama having a real shot at being elected the nation’s first black president, the excitement will grow to fever pitch in the black community.

The Democrats are united like never before, says Phil Noble, former Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

And Republicans better be alert.

“The Republicans had better get off their tails,” warned Francis Marion University political scientist Neal Thigpen, a GOP activist.

Some Republicans act as if the election has already been held in South Caarolina. Obama doesn’t have a prayer of carrying the state, they say.

S.C. Democrats seem to have everything on their side this time: money, enthusiasm, and a superb candidate.

Obama is not without his problems, however.

If he has a hurdle in the South, ideology will likely be a major obstacle. Lately, he has been edging his way back to the middle.

But Republicans remain calm. They say for all the difficulties the party is facing, the South remains deeply conservative.

Based on early polls, Obama should easily beat Republican candidate John McCain, the Arizona senator.

After all, he leads the Republican in every measurement.

Believing the nation is headed in the wrong direction, these voters want a change.

“Obama could win in a landslide,” says Charles Dunn, a political scientist at Regents University in Virginia.

But this will not be the first time the public will be voting for change, or had a deep desire for change. They had it in 1980 when Ronald Reagan challenged Carter and in 1992 when Bill Clinton opposed President Bush.

Reagan and Clinton won, running on a platfom of change.

So, if 2008 repeats the history of 1980 and 1992, Obama will win in a landslide, Dunn predicts.

Some say Obama doesn’t have a prayer of carrying South Carolina.

He may not. But the guess is he won’t need it.


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