Much to my disappointment, we will not be ready to endorse in the S.C. Democratic Primary on Sunday as planned.
As blog readers should be aware, the only Democratic candidate we have had an endorsement interview with thus far is Joe Biden, and being the current-events whizzes y’all are, you know he dropped out after Iowa. Now if you’re wondering why he’s the only one to have come in before the last-minute crunch (he last visited us on Oct. 1), that’s a good question. If you come up with an answer, let me know. All the major candidates have had standing invitations since well before the first of the year.
Anyway, we have not taken the position that "You should have done your homework before the January crush rather than waiting until the last minute." (No way I could have any moral standing there, as I always do stuff at the last minute, which is one reason I’m in the deadline-oriented newspaper biz.) We’re still doing our best to get folks in here. We’ve grown accustomed in recent elections to having that opportunity, and while we realize the insane front-loaded primary schedule we have this year is pulling them in far more directions than we’re used to, we’re not comfortable with endorsing someone we haven’t had the chance to interview as a board.
As of now, the one remaining candidate we have scheduled is Barack Obama — on Monday morning, MLK Day. His campaign says he won’t be east of Nevada before that. We continue to hope for something earlier if his plans change, but right now this is what we’ve got. I’m hoping rather fervently that we can get Hillary Clinton in before Obama, so that our decision won’t be further delayed, but no time has been set yet. (That this is on MLK Day is ironic, because it underlines the fact that Biden and Chris Dodd were here last MLK Day, campaigning their rear ends off, months before Obama and Clinton entered the race as automatic front-runners, thus crowned by the inside-the-Beltway media without having lifted a finger to seek the votes of South Carolinians.)
As those are the front-runners, those are the two we are really pressing at this point. Our standing invitation remains open to John Edwards (for the rest of this week anyway), but as time runs out, we’re pushing the ones who have the greatest chance of actually becoming president. And as I said last, week, South Carolina is now about these two candidates, as the GOP one is about McCain and Huckabee (don’t look at me; look at the polls).
This is not what I wanted. I wanted both of the endorsements to run on Sunday, as the McCain one did. That gives maximum exposure to something that has high reader interest (our endorsement was the top-rated item on thestate.com over the weekend, I believe), and also gives some time for letters and other reaction before the vote.
But right now, our best-case scenario is that our endorsement will run on Wednesday, Jan. 23. We would also put it online early, as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, as we did with the Republican one.
Speaking of the Republican endorsement — we entertained the idea of delaying that one as well. I brought it up to my colleagues late last week. But the situation was different. We had already met with the two front-runners, and the remaining candidates showed little interest in coming in, even late. No campaign suggested, as Sen. Obama’s did, coming in at the first of the next week. If we tried to go ahead on schedule with the Democratic endorsement the way we did with the GOP, we’d do so with a dearth of input.
(Personally — speaking only for myself here, not my colleagues — I am really counting on these meetings to help me make up my mind. Y’all know I always liked McCain, and hoped that was where we would end up as a group — those meetings for me were about testing my preference through dialogue with him and Huckabee, my second choice. With the Democratic race, I truly don’t know which one I’d pick right now even if I could wave a wand and make it so without regard to the other members of the board.)
So that’s the way things stand. I’ll tell you if I learn more.