Dems Prepare for Battle in GOP Stronghold of South Carolina
by Jonathan Serrie
In Republican-controlled South Carolina, President Obama faces an uphill battle to become the first Democratic presidential contender to win the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
"I think a lot of my political science friends are gonna go out there and vote," said Christopher Hance, a student at the College of Charleston and Obama supporter. "My friends in the communications, maybe even the business or hospitality and tourism majors, I think they could care less."
To try and rekindle the enthusiasm of 2008, the Obama campaign already has operatives working in South Carolina cities, including Columbia and Charleston. Separately, an independent group called South Carolina Forward Progress is posting videos ridiculing, what it regards as, radical elements within the GOP.
Democratic Party officials here don't worry much about grassroots fiscal conservatism taking hold.
"I think that the more Tea Party proposals we hear, the better off Democrats and President Obama are gonna be," said Dick Harpootlian, who was recently reelected to chair the South Carolina Democratic Party.
South Carolina has the nation's largest per capita population of active and retired military personnel. Democrats see the killing of Usama bin Laden as an opportunity for the president to bolster his foreign policy and national security credentials with these voters.
Party leaders also hope to attract independents and moderate Republicans who moved here from the Northeast.
"If the Democrats in South Carolina can figure out a way to frame their message so that... the traditional Yankee Republican voters understand and see themselves more closely aligned with the Democratic Party, they could certainly become a strong and viable party in the South once again," said Kendra Stewart, a political science professor at the College of Charleston.
According to Stewart, in order for the president to win in South Carolina, the campaign has to tap into Southern Democrats, who are more conservative, but still plentiful.
"What folks need to remember is that the Democrats do still control almost as many local governments as Republicans do," Stewart said.
Even though Democrats took a beating in South Carolina's November elections, party insiders contend their strong organization and enthusiasm from next year's Democratic National Convention in nearby Charlotte, North Carolina could help them in 2012.