Has South Carolina become for Dems what it was for GOP?

The main thing about the SC primary, of course, is that the right candidate runs and wins it. Hint, hint...

The main thing about the SC primary, of course, is that the right candidate runs and wins it. Hint, hint…

I mean in terms of the presidential primary process.

Starting in 1988, and ending in 2012, SC was in many ways the contest Republicans had to win. It was key to both of the Bushes especially. SC Republicans went around saying things like “We choose presidents,” yadda yadda. They did this because they picked mainstream, establishment candidates with appeal beyond the base, and our early primary helped tip the selection process in their favor.

Then, in 2012, it all fell apart with the rejection of Mitt Romney in favor of the fire-breathing Newt Gingrich. And we know what happened in 2016 — yeah, SC Repubs picked the eventual winner, but the whole national electorate had to go stark, raving mad in order for that to happen. At the time of the SC primary, it looked like Palmetto State Republicans were chasing off in another crazy direction alone, as with Gingrich. If decisions were still made in smoke-filled rooms by a party elite, SC would have lost its early primary by now. (In saner times, SC Republicans would have salvaged the hopes of the hapless Jeb! They had never let a Bush down before.)

Meanwhile, over the last few elections, this red state has gotten more important to Democrats. I was impressed by how many Dems we saw trooping though our editorial boardroom in 2003-4 (my own favorite being, famously or infamously, Joe Lieberman). And while he didn’t get the nomination, the execrable John Edwards’ win here helped get him the second spot on the ticket.

SC was very helpful in helping Barack Obama get the momentum he needed to pull ahead in 2008. The SC Democratic primary wasn’t really a contest in 2016, with Hillary Clinton winning hands-down as expected.

But this year, you’d think the Democratic nomination was going to be awarded right here, on the spot, next Feb. 29. They’ve been trooping through here in battalions, for months. (You’ve seen me complain about that distraction, and media fascination with 2020 over 2018, back during the campaign last fall.)

This is an interesting phenomenon. There have always been some aspects of the Democratic contest in this blood-red state that caused folks to pay attention nationally. That was largely because there are essentially no black voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, so Dems who won in those places would be told, “Let’s just wait and see how you do in South Carolina.”

But this thing we’re seeing now exceeds what we’ve seen in the past. With the huge field, and particularly with some of the chief contestants in it being African-American, we are looming large.

I’ve had a lot of occasions to note this; we all have. What kicked this off today was Vanity Fair’s “The Hive” making this observation about Bernie Sanders:

None of Sanders’s opponents are scared by those numbers, however. Because what Sanders was less good at in 2016 was spending his large pile of money to win votes. Particularly the crucial Democratic primary votes of women and African-Americans. Especially in the key state of South Carolina. And three years after being crushed by 47 points there by Hillary Clinton, with an even more challenging field of primary rivals shaping up, Sanders is showing little sign that he’s going to get it right this time around. True, in January he spoke in South Carolina on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Sanders has also taken every opportunityto blast President Donald Trump as a racist. Yet Sanders remains remarkably awkward on the subject…

The piece ends with a lengthy quote from our own Bakari Sellers.

I don’t know why that particularly grabbed me. Something about Vanity Fair of all entities calling poor li’l ol’ us “the key state.” Anyway, you’ll be reading plenty more like that.

This is deeply ironic, of course — a state that hasn’t been in play in the general election being so important to Democrats. But it’s increasingly a thing, and it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out going forward.

In short, will this story have a happy ending (with Joe Biden deciding to run, winning in SC, and going on to win the White House), or not? That’s my perspective, anyway… 🙂

The stream of Dems who came through our editorial board room in 2004 was impressive. Since that was pre-blog, this is the only photo I have from that time. It was shot by a Dean fan when my assistant Sandy Brown and I were escorting the governor from the building after meeting with him...

The stream of Dems who came through our editorial board room in 2004 was impressive. Since that was pre-blog, this is the only photo I have from that time. It was shot by a Dean fan when my assistant Sandy Brown and I were escorting the governor from the building after meeting with him…


16 thoughts on “Has South Carolina become for Dems what it was for GOP?

  1. Doug Ross

    If Booker or Harris win after finishing 3rd or worse in Iowa and NH, then the rest of the candidates will say it was just the black vote in a state that no Democrat will win. You won’t see hide nor hair of the Democratic candidate after Feb 29.

    Now, it might be important if someone wins Iowa AND South Carolina or New Hampshire AND SC. But without any kind of momentum coming into SC, I can see many of the candidates just skipping SC and moving on to more important states to keep them in the race. If Biden enters, it will be a very split race. Otherwise, I can seen Harris and/or Booker getting 20-25% each with several others shooting for 3rd as a sign of viability.

    Super Tuesday is only 3 days later so why bother with SC when you can go after any of these:

    Alabama, California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.

    Bernie will have the money to go big in all of those. Harris will have the best path to victory if she doesn’t screw up early . The spoilers will be Biden and Beto. Beto could charm his way to a Joe Cunningham style win in SC, then win Texas and finish no worse than 3rd in California. I think he’s smart to lay low for now and let the others fight it out. He proved he could raise a TON of money quickly…

  2. Doug Ross

    Probably not the best photo of Joe… He can’t seem to keep his hands off young women. It really is creepy how touchy he is. He will definitely need to exhibit some self control in that area if he runs. But I don’t think he will.. There was an article this weekend talking about all his family drama that he may not want to open up to the public.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, come on! He’s got his hand on my shoulder the same way in this picture! And I’m positive he didn’t mean anything by it. I’m not that attractive.

      Anyway, if he’s going to run, he needs to get started. His friends are worried that all the staff, and the money, will already be committed if he waits…

      1. Doug Ross

        This isn’t the first time. I’m not inventing this perception of him. He can grab all the old guys he wants. He should keep his hands off preteen girls. It’s not difficult to do.

        He’s not running.

        1. Doug Ross

          Grabby old Uncle Joe is not the best guy for America at this time. There’s a certain mentality that goes with touching young women… It’s a power trip.

          1. bud

            Doug you inexplicably give Trump a pass for far worse. Sheesh at least make a tiny effort to be consistent.

            Having said that Joe really does need to tone down the touchy, feely stuff during the Dem primary season. Brad is waaaaay to dismissive of this. Not a good look Joe.

            1. Doug Ross

              I gave Trump a pass? In what way? I didn’t vote for him and won’t vote for him unless he’s up against Warren. I believe the most frequent words I’ve used to describe him are boor and buffoon.

              I’m talking about Joe Biden and that’s it. He’s got Strom Thurmond Syndrome. Thinksv that age gives him a pass to put his hands on any woman.

              1. bud

                I believe the most frequent words I’ve used to describe him are boor and buffoon.

                He’s far, far worse than that. He’s a Nazi apologist, sexual predator, liar (thousands of times), con man, thief (from his own charitable foundation no less), fraud (Trump University), failed businessman. Yet you will still vote for him over the pragmatic Elizabeth Warren?

                1. Doug Ross

                  Yes. She is also a liar, a rich woman who pretends to fight for the “little” guy, a complete imbecile when it comes to economics, with a grating, whiny personality. She’s always figuratively wagging her bony finger at the rest of the world… thankfully, I’d say she has a 1% of getting the nomination.

                  Trump is not a Nazi apologist or sexual predator. Using those terms diminishes their value when applied to ACTUAL Nazi apologist and sexual predators.

                  Did you see Trump last week at the White House celebration of Black History Month? This supposed racist stood there, surrounded by African American guests and honorees, and gave a long speech about all the contributions they had made throughout American history. Does a racist like David Duke do that? I’m not saying Trump may not have demonstrated prejudice against certain segments of different races — he has and does — but he’s not a racist. He’s not a misogynist either – and I bet Nikki Haley would agree.

                  He’s a loudmouth boor and an egotistical buffoon… who somehow managed to become a billionaire and President of the USA.

                2. bud

                  he’s not a racist.

                  Good one Doug. This is the man who took help his father discriminate against black people in his housing projects. He also took out a full page ad against the Central Park Five and continued to push that nonsense even after they were proven innocent. And worst of all he continued with the utter nonsense that Barack Obama was born in Kenya for many years. Then there’s the Shithole country comment. And of course Mexicans are rapists. No Doug, Donald Trump is a proven racists. His own words and actions pretty much prove that.

    2. Barry

      As long as he doesn’t admit to touching women between the legs against their will he can win…….

      oh wait………

  3. bud

    As for Brad’s main point S.C. is very important for the Dem hopefuls. Bernie could help his cause if he runs ads showing his participation in civil rights movements in the 60s. He has a good record on that so I’m not sure why he did so poorly in 16 with black voters. This may be Bernie’s time. I love Bernie but I really would like to see a younger candidate. Right now my favorite is Corey Booker. I did like Amy Klobusher but the staff nastiness issue does seem fairly big. Next week I may back someone else. Time to set up a spreadsheet with pros and cons.

  4. Larry Slaughter

    Someone explain to me why 3 states that determine nothing in a presidential general election play such an over-sized role in determining presidential nominees. Seems like having an early primary in a state that will be in play would yield a more successful candidate. there would be significant African-American turnout in Georgia, or NC, or VA. And a Democratic candidate would have a chance to carry those states in a general election. Is it cheaper because NH and SC are small states?

  5. Juan Caruso

    Here’s my unsolicited analysis of the Dem’ s strategy for a 2020 win:
    1) All of the announced Dem candidates to date except Uncle Joe are
    recognized activists for a key Identity group. None could succeed in
    his/her/etc. own right due to their brand identification(s) with one
    or extremist position on socialism, sanctuary cities, abortion, and
    self defense. Each will assure a good voter turnout toward a
    plausible victory by Uncle Joe.
    2) Although Uncle Joe’s lifelong aloofness anoints him most immune
    of all candidates from voting criticisms, he is older than Trump,
    Caucasian and prone to poor debating. The inner circle of Dem
    party leaders (mostly elderly, white-male lobbyists) have reckoned
    that one VP selection easily remedies Biden’s shortcomings.
    3) The obvious Veep choice has just days ago announced she won’t
    run for president in 2020, but vows she’s “not going anywhere” and
    she wants to assure people that she’s “going to keep speaking out”.

    [For Biden, no doubt!] As usual, you probably read it here first.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *