S. Carolina rejects ‘dirty’ politics, Candidates race to Super Tuesday
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The race is now at full throttle going into the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses in 24 states.
On the Republican side, John McCain defeated Mitt Romney in the Florida primary. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, once the GOP frontrunner, came in a distant third and is expected to drop out.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is campaigning hard even after Illinois Sen. Barack Obama trounced her in South Carolina’s Jan. 26 primary. Former Sen. John Edwards dropped out of the race after coming in second in Iowa and three third place finishes in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
South Carolina voters took issue with the messages of division and attack politics that came from former President Bill Clinton. Many Democratic Party leaders urged Clinton to stop using such tactics. But it was the voters who had the last say, handing Obama a landslide victory.
Robert Teachey, a Vietnam veteran said, “The Republican leadership uses smear tactics. Now the people are rejecting dirty politics. Hillary Clinton should learn from the vote that took place here today.”
Now “Super Tuesday” takes the primary races nationwide, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Kansas, Illinois, New York, Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Jersey, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
Obama flew the next day to Macon, Ga., where he addressed a crowd at Harvest Cathedral. Later he was greeted by 11,000 who packed Bartow Arena at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
Then it was back to Washington, D.C., for a Jan. 28 rally at American University with Sen. Edward Kennedy, his son Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and his niece Caroline, who announced their endorsements of Obama to a huge cheering crowd.
The Kennedys will barnstorm with Obama across the nation, focusing on California and the Southwest where Obama will make a special appeal to Latino voters.
In California, polls show Hillary Clinton still substantially leading Obama, with many Democratic voters saying they could change their minds.
California elected officials are divided in their choices. Among Obama backers are Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), top-ranking Latino in the House of Representatives, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland). Among Clinton backers are Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums.
On Jan. 27, former state Senator Tom Hayden — still a force in progressive politics — came out for Obama. He wrote, “Many ordinary Americans will take a transformative step down the long road to the Rainbow Covenant if Obama wins.” The multiracial, grassroots enthusiasm that is propelling Obama’s campaign was evident in the 10,000 people who packed the Convention Center here to cheer his landslide primary victory Jan. 26.
South Carolina’s voter turnout smashed records, with twice the number who voted in the 2004 primary. Obama won with 55 percent, trouncing Clinton, who drew 27 percent, and Edwards, who got 18 percent. Obama captured 78 percent of the Black vote and, significantly in this state which still flies the Confederate flag on its Statehouse grounds, 24 percent of the white vote, winning a notable 52 percent of white voters under age 30.
Standing in the crowd was former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges. “Critics said he couldn’t build a broad-based coalition and win election in November,” he told the World. “Tonight he answered that. I’m proud because the suggestion that white voters in my state wouldn’t vote for an African American candidate for president was proven not true. Barack was very competitive with Clinton and Edwards in winning white voters.”
Pamela Light, a middle-school Spanish language teacher, who is white, said, “Obama is going beyond Democrat and Republican, beyond Black and white. He talks about grassroots organizing. I will vote for him in November if he is on the ballot.”
Oscar McKnight, a butcher at Wal-Mart in Columbia, recalled the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s victory in the caucuses here in 1988. Twenty years later, McKnight said, “People ask me if it is the time to have an African American president. I tell them, ‘Yes. This is the time.’ I thank God my wife and I lived to see this.”
Hundreds came from across the nation, including a busload from Baltimore, to be a part of what many say is a historic campaign.
Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, president pro-tem of the Maryland Senate, told the World, “This is a state that still has the Confederate flag flying on the Capitol grounds, a state steeped in the past, with a history of keeping people separate. This vote showed that people are coming together.”
Earlier in the day, at a polling place outside Columbia, Obama volunteer Kevin Scott said, “I think this is going to be a victory for my children.” They would reap the benefits of an Obama presidency with better schools, jobs and health care, he said.
Eric Holder, former deputy U.S. attorney general in the Clinton administration, told the World, “It is so heartening to see both the numbers and the intensity of support for Senator Obama.”
Holder, who is African American, stressed Obama’s multiracial appeal. “You saw it in both Iowa and New Hampshire. He is by far the most electable Democrat with his appeal to Democrats, independents and even Republicans,” Holder said.