Carolina In My Mind

Update II: We added a graph of South Carolina polls.
Update: An assessment from The Hotline: “We would be “naive” to think that her battle with Obama is just aimed at primary voters. The bigger goal is to set her up as an acceptable Commander-in-Chief. Talk to any Dem strategist and they’ll tell you that GOPers’ ability to paint Dems as weak on security and terrorism is still their greatest fear.”

We noted last week that Barack Obama’s desperate attack on Hillary Clinton and his flipping and flopping could be reduced to 2 words: South Carolina. We noted in that article how Obama’s entire campaign strategy is based on victory in the South Carolina primary.

We noted in Barack Obama Flops, Then Flips – Part III, that Obama was doing very badly in the South Carolina polls both immediately pre-debate and immediately post-debate.

We stated that Obama’s desperate attack on Hillary was due to his failing campaign in South Carolina despite the fact that Obama is outspending Hillary 3 to 1 in South Carolina. So, how is Obama doing in South Carolina?
South Carolina polls

The polls tell the story that Hillary is beating Obama badly in South Carolina. What is the anecdotal evidence and what do knowledgeable political observers say about the South Carolina political situation?

Clinton brought the house down Saturday during a campaign stop at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Performing Arts Center as the first 2008 presidential candidate to visit Beaufort.

“Her message was right on,” said Hilton Head Island Democrat Jack Keable, 72, after Clinton’s 40-minute speech. “Something needs to be done to change the country back to the way it used to be.”

Clinton won over the crowd of more than 500 supporters seated in the auditorium and the roughly 300 people in overflow seating who watched the speech from closed-circuit televisions set up just outside the auditorium.

South Carolina’s The State:

U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York is sailing right along toward the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

No one is in place to stop her.

Clinton has dominated the four debates conducted thus far featuring the eight Democratic presidential hopefuls.

“Once again she stood out,” Francis Marion University political scientist Neal Thigpen said of Clinton’s performance in Monday night’s Charleston debate.

Experts have praised Clinton’s overall performance, calling it smooth and warm, reflecting a deep knowledge of the issues. [snip]
Clinton’s poll numbers have strengthened and gone up after each debate. Voters have been impressed with her intellect and cool demeanor. She doesn’t get rattled easily.

InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion, an Atlanta-based polling firm, questioned more than 500 S.C. Democratic voters the day after Monday’s debate. It showed Clinton crushing Obama 43 percent to 28 percent.

Matt Towery, president of InsiderAdvantage, said earlier surveys showed Obama in the lead. The change occurred as more black voters decided on Clinton.

“It does appear that, at this point, she has a pretty good lead,” agreed Carol Khare Fowler, chairwoman of the S.C. Democratic Party. “I don’t doubt she is ahead.” [snip]

After Monday night’s debate and Clinton’s widening lead over Obama in the polls, some began to wonder whether the Democratic race isn’t over.

Many Democrats are saying Obama must make his move soon or be caught up in the Clinton sweep.

Well, Obama made his move, he flopped.

By Friday, even the Washington Post took notice of Hillary’s surging support:

The candidacy of the 45-year-old Obama elicits genuine excitement in a state where blacks comprise about half of the primary electorate. Yet coupled with that emotion is a strong degree of skepticism about the freshman senator’s experience and whether he can win.

Obama also is up against the formidable Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner who enjoys strong support in the black community and is married to former President Clinton, who is wildly popular in the community. [snip]

Ashley Torrence, a 27-year-old college instructor in Greenville, S.C., is torn between voting for Obama and Clinton, and considers her vote crucial because either candidate could smash barriers. Torrence has talked to Clinton and was disappointed when all she got from her encounter with Obama was a handshake.

“I wanted to ask him how he had planned to combat the feeling that unfortunately a lot of people have about just not being ready for a black male to be president and particularly a lot of people with old South mentality,” she said. “How is he going to deal with that? Because you can’t campaign as though it doesn’t exist.” [snip]

Obama’s plea was directed not only at voters, who will participate in the Jan. 29 primary, but Democratic state Sen. Robert Ford of Charleston. Ford garnered headlines when he said he was backing Clinton in part because he was skeptical that Obama could win the presidency and feared that his nomination could hurt other Democratic candidates.

“Every Democrat running on that ticket next year would lose _ because he’s black and he’s top of the ticket. We’d lose the House and the Senate and the governors and everything,” said Ford, who is black. [snip]

But the AP interviews suggested the view is prevalent among blacks, along with concerns across racial lines about whether Obama has enough experience to be president. Greenville County Democratic Party chairman Andy Arnold hears it frequently among blacks, who are supporting Clinton in greater numbers in recent polls.

“A lot of the African-Americans are with Hillary because I think they don’t believe white America is ready for a black president,” said Arnold, who is white and uncommitted in the race. “They want to win and so in a way, I think it is a barrier to him. And it may be more so in the South where the remnants of the old South are still in the older folks mind. They just can’t believe in their right mind that white folks will elect a black man president, so let’s not put ourselves through that agony.” [snip]

The Obama campaign argues that doubts about whether a black man can be elected is not widespread. They cite a Winthrop Poll of South Carolinians in May in which 79 percent of respondents said they think the country will be ready for a black president in the next 12 years. However, the poll did not ask whether they would be ready in 2008.

Did Obama’s desperate attack on Hillary calling her Bush/Cheney lite help Obama? The New York Daily
editorial today answers the question

Barack Obama made a soft-skulled statement in last week’s debate. He said he would meet one-on-one with dictators – including Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and nuclear saber-rattler Kim Jong Il – without preconditions in his first year in office. Hillary Clinton rightly pronounced him naive.

Now we have Exhibit B that something is awry in the Obama camp. Rather than explain under what circumstances he would, in fact, sit down with tyrants, Obama has labeled Clinton’s strategy – to conduct robust diplomacy while remaining wary of being used for propaganda purposes – “Bush-Cheney lite.” What?

The latest polls show Obama gained no traction with Axelrod’s desperate “Battle of the Bulge” type assault. The Battle of Charleston is over.

Several months from now, with soft music playing in the background, when Obama and Axelrod and Plouffe are having some drinks and having some smokes, thinking about what might have been – they can look back to last week and pinpoint the moment their campaign was utterly lost.