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Raised Hopes in South Carolina

By Alec MacGillis
BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Following Barack Obama across South Carolina, it is hard to believe that just a few months ago, he was struggling with Hillary Clinton for the allegiance of the state's large African American Democratic primary electorate. Many black voters retained loyalty to Clinton and her husband, while others were wary of getting excited about a historic candidacy they doubted could succeed, or unsure how much solidarity to feel for Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and Kansan mother.

Such ambivalence is increasingly scarce. At one stop after another, in sleepy college towns and impoverished outposts of shotgun houses and all-but abandoned shopping plazas, Obama is drawing giddy crowds who line the road for a glimpse of his bus, cram high-school gymnasiums and engage in a jubilant, boisterous give and take with Obama totally unlike anything found at his campaign events in Iowa and New Hampshire. He has developed an easy, high-spirited rapport that is backed up by polls showing him drawing well over half of the state's black vote, which is expected to make up about half of the Democratic electorate.

But there is a hint of potential pathos in the spreading enthusiasm and expectation. Obama has pitched his candidacy as one that could transcend racial divisions, and his victory in nearly all-white Iowa seemingly vindicated his potential to do so. Yet a win in South Carolina on Saturday with overwhelming backing from the state's African-American voters but far less support from white voters could be taken as undercutting the promise of crossover appeal. (Yesterday, a poll showed him with 59 percent of the black vote, but 10 percent support from white voters.) It could also give his opponents a chance to argue that his win came as a result of the natural affinity of black voters for a fellow African American, and so would not be deserving of the momentum a win would normally bring. The Obama campaign began to push back at this notion Thursday by releasing a memo detailing how much time and money Clinton has put into trying to win the state.

Such considerations are not on the minds of many of the African American voters who are flocking to Obama's events and, depending on the demographics of the town, making up the bulk of his crowds. Audience members applaud so loudly they often drown out entire lines at a time of his speech, and sprinkle it with a patter of loud affirmations and impromptu interjections. (In North Charleston last night, a woman shouted out "Right on time, baby!" when Obama referred to those who say this is too early for him to run for president. A moment later, when he was recounting Clinton's response to being asked at a debate what her greatest weakness was, another woman shouted, "Her biggest weakness is Bill Clinton!") Obama feeds on the crowds' energy, pausing to laugh at particularly voluble or clever contributions, and talking back at the crowd much more freely than he usually does.

He has adapted his stump speech to reflect the familiarity his audience feels. He makes more references than usual to his church-going -- "I praise an awesome God" -- and places more emphasis on having been raised "without privilege," by a single mother. He talks more about the high rate of imprisonment than he did in other states. "If our children are driving past prisons that are new and schools that are old, that tells them something about what we value," he said in Kingstree. He avoids explicit mentions of the historic nature of his candidacy unless asked about it by audience members, but offers subtle encouragement for skeptics: "Don't let people make you afraid. Don't let them feed your doubt," he urged voters in Kingstree.

He loosens up his lingo as well, with just enough irony and self-awareness to avoid accusations of pandering. In Dillon Wednesday night, he smiled when an audience member cried out "That ain't right" in response to a disingenuous claim he said Hillary Clinton had made, and then he ran with it, telling the speaker that she had nailed it.

"That is not just 'isn't right.' That 'ain't right,'" he said with a grin. "There are some things that 'isn't right' but then there are some that 'ain't right.'" The crowd roared. "You know what I'm talking about," he added. Mocking a Clinton answer that, he said, smacked of Beltway-speak a moment later, he said, "In Washington, that's how they do." That got a big laugh, and he said it again with a grin. "That's how they do!" In Kingstree, he urged his audience to help with voter turnout Saturday by saying, with a smile, "I not only need you to vote, I need Cousin Pookie to vote. I need Ray-Ray. We need to get some folks to show up that haven't been voting."

The crowd loved it. As they filed out, Tarsha Mesith, 25, said it was momentous for the town to have a presidential candidate visit, and an African American one at that. "It's very exciting," she said, with her two-year-old daughter Ty'quisha at her side. "I was intending to vote for Hillary, but now he has my vote."

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 25, 2008; 1:25 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Hillary Rodham Clinton  
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Next: Barnstorming and BBQ on Menu in S.C.



"The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."

--Milan Kundera

Truth, simple truth, can still win the field.

A party of change should not also be a party to corruption.

Government accountability starts with personal responsibiity.

Today, the Clinton machine is eyeball to eyeball with an America that does not want to re-live the 1990s, the scandals, the shame, the spectacle of our White House transformed into a bordello.

If you are tired of the Clintons' lying, race coding and defaming and distorting the record of some of the party's best and brightest, there is a solution.

We can take back the party ... by drawing on the direct action lessons community activists taught us in the 1960s and 1970s during the heyday of the civil rights movement.

All it will take is a zerox machine, a tape recorder, or a video set-up.

And a willingness to stand up and be counted.

Go to your next Democratic Party meeting.

Bring with you copies of Nation magazine Katha Pollitt's article on Bill Clinton's alleged involvement in the Juanita Broaddrick sexual assault scandal ( Politely distribute it as a leaflet.

Take too, one of the original Washington Post stories on the same subject ( Use this one as a leaflet as well; please be polite.

Also, bring a tape recording or DVD of the Juanita Broaddrick interview in which she talks of her personal experiences with the Clintons. ... And make sure you can play it loudly. (

Just for giggles, also take with you a paperback version of the book "No One Left To Lie to" by British-American writer and human rights activist Christopher Hitchens'--and make a lot of copies of the chapter on "Is There a Rapist in the Oval Office?"

Recently Hitchens reminded that the essay "has never been challenged by anybody in the fabled Clinton 'rapid response' team.)

"Yet one constantly reads that both Clintons, including the female who helped intensify the slanders against her mistreated sisters, are excellent on women's 'issues.'"

Share these with your fellow Democrats at party meetings before your state holds a caucus or primary.

Ask them to listen to their consciences.

Ask them if they want the divisiveness, examples of disrepect for women, and union busting friendships (Wal-Mart, Marc Rich, you know the drill), that would surely come with another Clinton presidency.

Ask them if the country can afford such a spectacle as the economy tanks and young men and women are fighting and dying for our freedom many miles from our shores.

Once a lone voice from the back of the U.S. Senate chamber, that of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, called out to remind a body that was about to rubber stamp Clarence Thomas' elevation to the Supreme Court about their responsibilities.

Anita Hill came forward and the rest was history. Unfortunately, that time it was too late to make a difference.

It was Moynihan who once said that everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts.

Take ... the ... party ... back!!!

Martin Edwin Andersen is the 2001 winner of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel's "Public Servant Award" for uncovering what the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General later called "egregious misconduct" and "willful disregard for national security" by senior Janet Reno aides in a major national security and corruption scandal.

Janet Reno's appointment as AG was vigorously supported by Hillary Clinton.

Posted by: Martinedwinandersen | January 25, 2008 11:46 PM | Report abuse

With web stats like this (Hillary vs. Barack), I would say Obama is a shoe-in:

Posted by: davidmwe | January 25, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I'm partial to this one, "It could also give his opponents a chance to argue that his win came as a result of the natural affinity of black voters for a fellow African American, and so would not be deserving of the momentum a win would normally bring."

Just like Obama claimed that Hillary's win in New Hampshire was a result of the "natural affinity of white female voters for a fellow white female". Errr... I love that people consider being a woman a steeper hill to climb than being black, because its so untrue and so consistent with our conventional wisdom. If its not true but flatters a larger segment of people's egos than something that would be true, we'll go with it.

Ye ha! Or how I learned to stop worrying, vote Clinton and then lobotomize myself with a rusty spoon.

Posted by: Majorajam | January 25, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Hey NewAgent 99--

Sounds like you're starting to finally "get it." Hillary's campaign is working splendidly.

PS: How wonderful it will be when HRC gets the nomination, and then loses to McCain in November. Yay for more war and recession!

General Election: McCain vs. Clinton (NBC/WSJ Poll released 1/25/08) McCain 46, Clinton 44, Und 6 (McCain +2)

General Election: McCain vs. Obama (Rasmussen Poll released 1/25/08) McCain 41, Obama 46, Und 13 (Obama +5)

Posted by: sacred_ray | January 25, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama delivered his powerful speech at the Federal Plaza in Chicago October 2, 2002 against the US beginning war in Iraq while later that same month Hillary Clinton voted for the authorization to begin US military action in Iraq. Once US troops were actually in Iraq and fighting a war, of course, it would be irresponsible for Obama to be against funding the troops. The key is that Barack Obama had the judgment to see the dumbness of the war in October 2002 and clearly said so. Hillary Clinton did not and voted to start it.

Bill and Hillary Clinton's tactic of trying to paint Obama's war position as "a fairy tale" or as "inconsistent" is typical "Clinton politics" and clearly demonstrates why America badly needs the enormous breath of fresh air Barack Obama provides. At one time Senator Kerry from Nebraska referred to the Clinton's as "clever liars" several years before President Bill Clinton told America: "I did not have sex with that woman!" or as Jay Leno quipped, "He didn't have sex with her, she had it with him!"

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama made an appearance -- via satellite while campaigning in Beaufort, South Carolina -- on David Letterman's "Late Show" on Thursday to read the show's traditional "Top 10″ list.

The Top 10 Barack Obama campaign promises:
10. To keep the budget balanced, I'll rent the Situation Room for sweet 16s.
9. I will double your tax money at the craps table.
8. Appoint Mitt Romney secretary of lookin' good.
7. If you bring a gator to the White House, I'll wrassle it.
6. I'll put Regis on the nickel.
5. I'll rename the 10th month of the year "Barack-tober."
4. I won't let Apple release the new and improved iPod the day after you bought the previous model.
3. I'll find money in the budget to buy Letterman a decent hairpiece.
2. Pronounce the word nuclear, nuclear.
1. Three words: Vice President Oprah.

When the Top 10 was finished, Letterman said, "Sen. Barack Obama, thank you very much for helping us out, senator. Good luck with the campaign."
Obama replied, "Thank you so much, David, but you can't muss my hair" -- a reference to Letterman messing up rival John Edwards hair during his Late Show appearance on Tuesday.
Said Letterman, "OK, whatever you say."

The editorial board of South Carolina's largest newspaper, The State, has endorsed Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential primary election (see below)
Posted on Tue, Jan. 22, 2008

Obama most likely Democrat to unify America
Andrew Haworth / The State
Sen. Barack Obama speaks to members of The State's Editorial Board on Monday.

 The State's Editorial Board endorses Barack Obama
- The State editorial board's Democratic presidential primary endorsement
THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY in South Carolina this year offers voters an unusual choice. Earlier votes have winnowed out the most experienced candidates, leaving a field with fewer accomplishments and differences on policy, but including two candidates who come with the promise to make history just because of who they are.
Looking at the remaining field: Rep. Dennis Kucinich offers a bold plan on health care, but his platform is an odd fit for us and for many in South Carolina. John Edwards has morphed away from the optimist who won South Carolina in 2004. The candidate who stayed mostly above the fray four years ago is angry now, and pushing hard to turn working-class angst into political opportunity. He also has tried to one-up the other top Democrats with the least prudent plan for withdrawing from Iraq.
On positions from Iraq to health care, the policy differences between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama are minute. Much of the debate between them has involved making these molehills look mountainous or clashing over who-shifted-when.
The one most significant difference between them can be found in how they would approach the presidency - and how the nation might respond.
Hillary Clinton has been a policy wonk most of her life, a trait she has carried into the U.S. Senate. As her debate performances have shown, she has intelligence and a deep understanding of many issues. Her efforts in New York focused first on learning her adopted state's issues in detail, and pursuing legislation that would not necessarily grab headlines.
But we also have a good idea what a Clinton presidency would look like. The restoration of the Clintons to the White House would trigger a new wave of all-out political warfare. That is not all Bill and Hillary's fault - but it exists, whomever you blame, and cannot be ignored. Hillary Clinton doesn't pretend that it won't happen; she simply vows to persevere, in the hope that her side can win. Indeed, the Clintons' joint career in public life seems oriented toward securing victory and personal vindication.
Sen. Obama's campaign is an argument for a more unifying style of leadership. In a time of great partisanship, he is careful to talk about winning over independents and even Republicans. He is harsh on the failures of the current administration - and most of that critique well-deserved. But he doesn't use his considerable rhetorical gifts to demonize Republicans. He's not neglecting his core values; he defends his progressive vision with vigorous integrity. But for him, American unity - transcending party - is a core value in itself.
Can such unity be restored, in this poisonous political culture? Not unless that is a nominee's goal from the outset. It will be a difficult challenge for any candidate; but we wait in the hope that someone really will try. There is no other hope for rescuing our republic from the mire.
Sen. Obama would also have the best chance to repair the damage to America's global reputation. A leader with his biography - including his roots in Africa and his years spent growing up overseas - could transform the world's view of America. He would seize that opportunity.
He would close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, which has damaged America's moral standing, and strive to rebuild many diplomatic relationships.
Despite America's bitter partisan divide, all sides should agree on this: In such an environment, little gets done. Congress has been largely useless under both Republican and Democratic leadership. Setting aside the ideological conflict for conflict's sake to get anything worthwhile done has fallen severely out of fashion.
And America certainly has things to get done.
From terrorism and climate change to runaway federal entitlement spending, there are big challenges to be faced. Sen. Obama is the only Democrat who plausibly can say that he wants to work with Americans across the political spectrum to address such subjects - and he has the integrity and the skills of persuasion that make him the best-qualified among the remaining Democratic hopefuls to address these challenges.
He would be a groundbreaking nominee. More to the point, he makes a solid case that he is ready to lead the whole country. We see Sen. Barack Obama as the best choice in Saturday's Democratic primary. (End of Endorsement)

Posted on Wed, Jan. 23, 2008
The New York Observer

Endorsement of Barack Obama

Lost amid the sound and fury of this year's primary season is the certainty, not the promise, of change. For the first time since 1952, there is no heir apparent to the administration in power.
The stakes have rarely been higher in a presidential election. The question is not if there will be change in American leadership, but what kind.
And the change that is being offered has a focus and intelligence that is kindred to the best American traditions. It is embodied by one candidate in the Democratic Party who is offering a reinvigorated America: Senator Barack Obama.

The New York Observer urges New York Democrats to support Mr. Obama in the state's presidential primary on Feb. 5.

New Yorkers might ask why they should not pull a lever for our junior senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton. While Mrs. Clinton is an extraordinary United States senator for New York, we believe that Mr. Obama can be a great president for the United States of America.
Most of the other candidates have absorbed, assimilated or appropriated Mr. Obama's issue of change. It is a powerful concept. But a great deal of the argument for Mr. Obama's candidacy is about one great issue in American life: restoring and reinvigorating American democracy.
Democracy is the greatest strength of this still-young nation. Its living enactment is our gift to the world. It is the product of our best instincts and most powerful ideals. But it has been polluted, sullied and compromised by an obstructive administration that seems to have to have no particular regard for its attributes.
It is difficult to remember the last national candidate who has charged and jazzed the democratic system as Mr. Obama has. Partly as a result of his candidacy, college campuses have remembered why they are proud of the United States, kids are going door to door, runners are handing out leaflets on weekends, racial lines have been culturally melted and the electoral approach to presidential campaigning has been reborn.
And, as more than one commentator has said, America is being reintroduced to the world.
Because of who he is and what he stands for, a former constitutional law teacher with few ties to the Washington establishment yet a sophisticated respect for it, Mr. Obama stands the best chance of restoring the essential relationship between power and the American people. He is not flanked and blocked by an existing, entrenched power structure; his words are not muddied by layers of handlers; he still says what he means.
We believe that Mr. Obama's idealism and fresh ideas would ensure that the end of the Bush era would also mean an end to government by secrecy, Cheneyism, arrogance, oligarchy; an end to mindless armed unilateralism abroad; an end to the blustering, rank partisan disputes of the last quarter-century.
Mr. Obama has found his strength in the generation that succeeded the baby boomers, speaking for the frustrations of those who wish that their leaders would get over themselves, get over the 1960's, get on with resolving issues that threaten our global leadership. Mr. Obama is an inclusive figure at a time when our popular culture demands that we embrace a new America while still comprehending the lessons of hard-won history--from World War II through the fall of the Berlin Wall--that have brought us to a free world in 2008.
He is also determined to mend this nation. Mr. Obama, as Walt Whitman did, hears America singing, not snarling. Too many candidates have turned opponents into traitors, critics into jackals. Mr. Obama believes the nation yearns to see hope and inspiration and courage emerge victorious from the era's gauntlet of hypocrisy and lies and false bravado. Imagine, for a moment, any other candidate this year saying what Mr. Obama said at the 2004 Democratic National Convention:
"The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into red states and blue states; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I've got news for them too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and yes, we got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."
That is a song we have not heard for too long a time. It is the kind of song that can make citizens of spectators, Americans of couch potatoes, patriots of slackers.
Mr. Obama would also be the most formidable Democrat in the general election. He has demonstrated a capacity to energize young people and attract new voters, and is the only candidate in the Democratic Party who attracts independents, who are the fastest-growing part of the electorate. His refusal to demonize the Republican Party as a right-wing attack machine will appeal to those independents as well as moderate Republicans.
Mr. Obama, it is true, is hardly an experienced Washington hand, which surely explains the freshness of his vision and the power of his life experience. His opponents have hit this issue hard. But as far as experience goes, to those Americans who celebrated finding ourselves with our first M.B.A. president in 2000--we can only advise them to look at the $9 trillion national debt in 2008.
And when George W. Bush was driving a bleary, shocked nation into war with bait-and-switch deceptions in 2003, where was our experienced leadership? Meanwhile, in the west, an Illinois state senator--who has since served three years in the Senate, the same Congressional period that a fellow Midwesterner, Abraham Lincoln, had served when he sought the presidency--rose to exhibit courage and public judgment on that deceptive adventure, stating, "I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars."
Now we have paid the price many times over, and there are no clear paths in Baghdad. But there may be one in Washington. Mr. Obama is the emblem of a new America. He has risen too quickly for his opponents' taste; that fact is nothing less than a recommendation.
His relationship to truth and plain speaking and public transparency is the first step toward reviving democracy in the United States of America.
Barack Obama of Illinois is the future. New York's Democrats should embrace him.(End of endorsement)

Posted by: bobwestafer | January 25, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

All that typing, and not a single word on any subject germaine to one's decision to support a presidential candidate. Typical Washington Post trash.

Posted by: zukermand | January 25, 2008 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Obama lost my vote when he started the "praise god" BS, he panders to every crowd.
He's black this week, white last week, a republican all the time.

Posted by: newagent99 | January 25, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

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