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Sunday, January 27, 2008

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Huffman

So here's what I find really remarkable about those turnout numbers. According to MSNBC, 79% of voters in South Carolina self-identified as Republicans about week ago, 19% as independents, and 2% as Democrats. Now I think the person that came up with those numbers was probably high, but you have to believe there are a lot more Republicans than Democrats in SC.

It really seems to the Democrats are excited this year, they're pulling in the independents, and the Republicans are just too disappointed with their choices to bother voting.

Daniel

Bill Moore, Mr. SC Political Science Media Source, tried to downplay the turnout numbers last night, citing the weather factor.

I'm not buying it.

When you're in a general election here, the Old Saw says that rain suppresses Democrats and particularly black Democrats, but that Republicans vote regardless of the weather.

Well, which is it? Because the weather was less than "good" on both days, and black turnout was great and Republican turnout was tepid.

Another thing: Can we bury that Old Saw about low voter-participation rates among African Americans? The traditional politico explanation is that blacks are "apathetic" about politics (a code word for "lazy?").

Maybe African Americans don't make a big deal about voting because we almost never offer them a meaningful candidate with meaningful prospects. Maybe African Americans aren't so much "apathetic" as they are "insightful."

A week ago I wrote about McCain's soft win here. McCain lost big to the "generic conservative" candidate Huckabee/Thompson, and -- as predicted -- Thompson quit the race in the aftermath. The SC GOP primary highlighted the discontented nature of the Republican Party in 2008.

Oh, and in case you're wondering? Huckabee/Thompson got 201,907 GOP primary votes. Obama? 295,091 votes in the Democratic primary. Even the GOP's best "generic" candidate couldn't get within 90,000 votes of him.

If you're trying to figure out how to interpret last night's results, try this characterization: A black man from Illinois just kicked the shit out of more than half a dozen white candidates from two parties in SOUTH CAROLINA.

Sure, sure: caveat, caveat, caveat. OK? Stipulated. Now, look at the numbers again. At the very least they point out a trend worth watching: Something unusual is happening in the electorate, and that means that something other than politics-as-usual might be possible in 2008.

That notion scares the snot out of Republicans and their partners in betrayal, the corporate Democrats. And I'm enjoying the moment and kindling a little more hope today.

Pat Conover

I would be interested in assessments of the level of disenchantment among white fundamentalist voters in South Carolina. I expected Huckabee to do much better.

I'm interested in the potential fracturing of the Republican Party that could lead to not merely a Democratic victory but a potential Democratic landslide. Is it just that the Republican candidates have such obvious limitations? Is it just that the Bush legacy looks like jumping out of the boat in a concrete suit? I'm hoping there is a dawning realization among fundamentalists that there economic interests, their need for social services, the fact that they are getting screwed by the wealthy in tax policy, etc., is leading to a little more sophistication, a little more appreciation of Democratic politics.

Daniel

I think the national perspective is pretty much true here as well: the "uniter, not a divider" presidency turned out to be a centrifuge. The GOP base has come completely undone, and South Carolina demonstrated that.

Huckabee "lost" to McCain, but the generic conservative candidate Huckabee/Thompson took 46 percent of the vote here. I read that this way: Huckabee got the Bob Jones vote; Thompson got the really-conservative-but-slightly-wary-of-preachers vote; and Romney won the chamber of commerce and the "he's our best compromise" voters.

The national media just didn't know what to say about McCain, so they told people that the GOP establishment rallied behind him in South Carolina. That's really not true. I think McCain got SOME establishment support this time, but the establishment really had nowhere to go. Romney was supposed to be the establishment candidate, but he's a train wreck and he plays poorly down here.

So, in answer to your question, Dad: I wouldn't waste much energy hoping for a moderating trend among fundamentalists. Huckabee would have won South Carolina easily without Thompson in the race. Our fundie friends are just as over-the-top as ever, and are likely to get MORESO now that they're feeling betrayed by the rest of the GOP.

What you can hope for is that lots of fundamentalists will simply sit this one out in protest. Since the most likely result of the primaries is either a McCain or Romney nomination (I still think Romney), you're going to have a bunch of pissed-off fundies.

The only thing that could bring them out? A chance to vote against Hillary.

Janet

There are far more blue people in Charleston than anywhere else in this state and since birds of a feather talk politics together, my picture in undoubtedly skewed.

But I know this: A good number of Republicans whom I talk to -- and I believe Dan would say the same -- stopped vigorously defending Bush and the GOP and began the "all politicians are bad" mantra some time ago. Who knows where they've come in the more troubled recent months?

People want to see Southerners like some "Deliverance" or "Dukes of Hazzard" stereotype, but they are far from it.

There is a LOT of talk about issues here and positions and meaningful subjects. Even the young people know what they are talking about for the most part. Many have actually read Obama's book and can talk about his positions. And yes, blacks are intelligent and informed too, despite national media belief that they are just voting for a black person. Undoubtedly that's true in some cases. I know women who voted for Hillary just because she's a woman. But I find it annoying that the media assumes all South Carolinians are knee-jerk, one-dimensional voters.

I don't see that race is as much a part of the campaign here in SC as the media would have you believe. People voted for Edwards because of his anti-corporation, pro-middle-class message more than because they don't want a black guy. Edwards seems to be well-liked even by those who voted for someone else and the consensus is that he's been done wrong by the media. Hillary, I think, has problems mostly because of her ties to the Democrat machine. What I hear most often is that people are uncomfortable with a Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton dynasty. Obama is charismatic and his message reasonates here.

It is not a cult of personality from where I sit. Yet there seems not to be an issue, such as the Iraq war or the subprime scandal, that draws particular passion. Rather, most just want the GOP and Bush out. There is a sense that EVERYTHING has been screwed up and we must have change and a chance to repair and restart. As it happens, that is exactly the message of Obama's campaign.

What I hear on the GOP side is more the desire to have a candidate "who can beat Hillary" rather than any particular commitment to a GOP candidate. No GOP candidate draws anything like the fervor of Obama fans.

Romney did not do well here and I don't see much overlap between Huckabee and the McCain crowd. Will Hillary truly draw out reactionary Republicans? Could anyone of them pull together the other's peeps or will some Repubs get in the booth behind the curtain and vote Dem? It will be very interesting.

Robert H.
The only thing that could bring them out? A chance to vote against Hillary.

This is what scares me. After the Bush Gong Show, any Dem should win against any Republican in November. But even with such anti-GOP sentiment in the country,I'm afraid the best Clinton can possibly get is 50%+1.

And now, she and her husband are even managing to alienate voters like me. I was wondering this last night: if it comes down to it, would I vote for McCain over Clinton in November? Probably not, but a lot of soft Democrats like my parents will. And if I do have to vote for Clinton, it will just be another case of voting against the Republican. I cannot imagine contributing any energy or timeto a Clinton campaign.

By the way, on The Daily Show last night, David Gergen said any Democratic candidate should win by at least ten points in November, but he is seriously afraid the Dems can blow it. Excluding two big states like Florida and Michigan from the primaries, combined with the shenanigans of the Clintons over the past month, could result in a McCain victory (if the GOP is smart enough to nominate him).

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