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Every State. Every race. Right here.

This is number 37 in a planned series of 50 entries between now and November, looking at each of the 50 states in terms of every race on that state's ticket--Presidential, Gubernatorial, Senate, House, State legislatures--the whole BBQ plate! Special attention paid to identifying and promoting the most important contests per state.

It's back to Dixie for us today, for a look at the Palmetto State: South Carolina!

South Carolina is politically odd.  On some paper, it looks winnable, and on other paper it looks insurmountable. But this is the 50-state strategy, and we should see what we can do.

Politically, SC has a lot in common with the Kansas described by Tom Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? in that the primary political forces include the populist poor drawn into voting for the neoconservative agenda, coupled with more well-to-do folks who are uncomfortable with the religious right but who have an agenda protecting their privilege. Frank wrote that the second group might be ripe for joining with the Democratic party, but that if it did, that Democratic party would no longer be the party of broad prosperity, but one of libertarianism and protection of the rich men’s agenda.  In South Carolina, the heaviest concentration of the Republican populists is in the pointy, inland corner of the state, while the comfortable class (the ones descended from General Beauregard Jackson-Pickett Burnside and fiercely proud of it) become more plentiful the closer you get to the lowlands and the coast. Note that, in the 1980s, the SC delegation was 4-2 Democrat, and that during the 1990s it was the two inland districts that flipped to the Republicans, making it 4-2 the other way, and which have since seemed the more intractably Republican compared to the two districts that have been GOP to begin with, and which show the most potential to flip to the Democrats in the near future.

The party is divided along these lines, with the lowlanders supporting those few Republicans who still show a tad of independence, like Senator Lindsay Graham, who is not all that bad for a Southern Republican but who is still noxious compared to any Democrat, with the neocons wanting to primary Graham as a DINO. The neocons are the same stripe as the West Virginians and Kentuckyans who have been unalterably opposed to Obama throughout the entire election season, for reasons utterly unrelated to race, oh no no no.

BLOGS:  South Carolina doesn’t appear to have one, the most populous state without a single-state blog.  If you know of one that I’ve missed, please bring it to my attention. If you’re in the Palmetto state, think about starting one.

PRESIDENT:  Likely McCain.  When SurveyUSA polled all 50 states on Bush popularity, South Carolina was one of the first Southern states to repudiate Bush, surprising many. Also, Obama’s large win in South Carolina’s primary played a big part in keeping his campaign alive and kicking, and gave him momentum going into the Super Tuesday primary, where his follow-up wins gave him the lead over Clinton.  These would seem to indicate that Obama would have a chance to win the state, along with neighboring swing states Georgia and especially North Carolina.  And yet, all polling so far shows Obama without a prayer. If I were Obama, I would choose between a Big Sky strategy that reached for the Dakotas and Montana, or a Southern strategy that bet that the combination of high black turnout, Republican ambivalence about McCain and the willingness of some poor white Southerners to consider a Democrat in light of hard economic times might all boost Obama’s chnces of winning at least some Red Southern states. Even then, South Carolina, it seems, would not merit the same attention as GA, NC and MS.

SENATE:  Lindsay Graham (Inc R) v. Bob Conley (D). Consistently off the map, despite being briefly considered as a potential in the event that Graham was primaried by Club for Growth, which didn’t happen. Conley, a former Republican is one of those sometimes loveable crackpots who provides some entertainment but little hope of making a real race.


None up this year. Of the many statewide offices in South Carolina, only the Superintendent of Education, Jim Rex, is a Democrat.  Despite the moderate trend in the polls, we have our work cut out for us here.


House of Representatives: 73R, 51D.  Deficit of 22, 12 flips needed to take control.

Senate: 27R, 19D, deficit of 8, 5 flips needed to take control.


District 1—Linda Ketner (D) v. Henry Brown (Inc R). Coastal, upscale  South Carolina.

I didn’t even know about this one until I went looking. HOLY COW, am I glad to have this woman on OUR side! She looks like she could knock an undecided voter down with her choice of a smile or a left hook, depending on what was called for. And look at her resume:

National Salute to Citizenship Award, South Carolina Woman of Valor Award, Girl Scout Woman of Distinction Award, and the South Carolina Housing Achievement Award. Also: The Malcolm D. Haven Award for Community Service, African American Life and History Trailblazer Award, SCHA Woman of the Year, YWCA Lifetime Achievement, Center for Women and Florence Crittenton Foundation Awards. She was awarded the NAACP J. Arthur Brown Award for Outstanding Service; NAACP Friend of Distinction Award, the Urban League Arthur J. Clement Award for Race Relations.

Dunno about you, but I feel humble. Do you think she requires sleep like other people, or does she just keep on going like an energizer rabbit?

I think I found THE BIG ONE for South Carolina in 2008. Please, go over and give Ketner what she needs to clobber Brown! I think she could be a Democratic powerhouse in the Kirsten Gillibrand mold. If not this year, then the year after that. Heck, we NEED to nurture Democrats like this. It’s what the 50-state strategy is all about.

District 2—Rob Miller (D) v. Joseph Wilson (Inc R).  Southwest SC, along the Georgia border and including Columbia and the Parris Island Marine Base. And yes, they found an Iraq war veteran to run in this district where the military is all-important. I didn’t get as many personal detais from his site as I did from Ketner’s, but it looks like he could make a sleeper out of it and do us proud if he got in.

This district and the 1st are the promising ones this year.  Note that these are the two districts that were Republican before the Newtists, while the 3rd and 4th flipped in the 90s. The 1st and 2nd may be ripe for flipping now, and we have just the two candidates to do it.

Build the roots. Build the bench. Ketner and Miller prove that we have the candidates we need to take a supermajority of districts. The party needs to help them get what they need to win, even if it might take more than one election cycle to actually get them into office.  Either of these two, if elected, has the potential to become a long-term powerhouse for the party—just like Newt did for the other side after losing one, two, three consecutive elections in a district everyone knew would never flip. And yet the party helped him get up and keep at it until he made it in and eventually helped to change an entire region. If they can do it, we can learn from their wins and do the same back at them.

UPDATE: Wow--check out the poll. 43 votes for Rob Miller in the poll compared to 4 for Ketner, 6 for Kos favorite Larry Kissel, and also-ran status for the rest of Dixie's TeamDemocrat. I'm impressed. And here I had assumed Ketner was the stronger candidate in the more flippable district. Those of you who turned out for Miller--any of you care to explain why he's the one to bet on? Grass roots support I don't know about? A lot of marines decided to read my diary today? The Second district gonna ride the wave?  Obviously, I like both of them, but a poll turnout like this makes me curious. GO MILLER!

DOUBLE UPDATE:  Look at the poll again: Later on, Ketner gets 206 votes, going way beyond Miller who has gotten to 70! And let's hear it for Ketner again!

Seems to me the word may have gone out to freep my poll, which rarely gets much attention under normal circumstances. I'm flattered.

Now listen--if every one of you who voted for Ketner and Miller goes over and donates whatever you can afford to either or both of them, then just maybe we'll see a "stunning upset"--or better yet, TWO of them, in the supposedly "solid red" Palmetto state, and America will get up to two potential rock stars for the party come 2009. They're young, they're energetic, they could live longer than Thurmond did and become Committee chairs for decades, and we'll be able to say we helped them get their foot in the door. Wouldn't that be great? Go get 'em!

District 3—Jane Dyer (D) v. J. Gresham Barrett (Inc R). The pointy, inland end, and a stretch of the Georgia border.Dyer is another military veteran, this time of the Air force. She’s right for the district and should get thanks from us, but I see little to no chance to win this time around.

District 4—Paul Corden (D) v. Robert Inglis (Inc R). Spartanburg and Greenville. Corden is another military veteran—Viet Nam, not Iraq. He’s the best we could have done in a hopeless district, and it’s good to have him chipping away at the GOP’s numbers.

District 5—John Spratt (Inc D). South Carolina’s "white blue" district, including most of the NC border and Rock Hill. Long term incumbent John Spratt easily survived the best that the repukes could throw at him last time around, and this time they’re only throwing token opposition. Safe Dem.

District 6—Jim Clyburn (Inc D). Central South Carolina. A gerrymandered minority district and a safe seat for Pelosi’s majority whip.

REDISTRICTING South Carolina: I’d like to see the 3rd and 4th concentrated right into the mountains, and the sixth divided into quarters, with one quarter each going into the four districts that are not the 3rd and 4th.  However, I’m dreaming. Of the two houses of the legislature and the Governor, we might win one or even two by 2011, but the whole trifecta is out of reach.

What do YOU think?

Previous diaries in this series, including THE BIG ONE for each state:

Delaware(lower house of the State Legislature):

Arkansas(Obama, for want of any other contest):

Illinois(Dan Seals, IL-10):

Texas, Part One(Michael Skelly, TX-07):

Texas, Part Two(Rick Noriega, TX-Sen):

Utah(building infrastructure):

Massachusetts(Using our majority to govern well):

North Carolina(Kay Hagan, NC-Sen):

Hawaii(Using our majority to govern well; also, preparation for Governor, possible open Senate race in 2010):

Mississippi(Ronnie Musgrove, MS-Sen):

Oregon(Jeff Merkley, OR-Sen):

Ohio(Tie: Obama, and State Legislature, both houses):

Maryland(Frank Kratovil, MD-01):

North Dakota(State Legislature, upper house):

Alabama(Bobby Bright, AL-02):

California, Part one(Charles Brown, CA-04):

California, Part two(Russ Warner, CA-26):

Vermont(Gaye Symington, VT-Gov):

Iowa(Rob Hubler, IA-05):


Wyoming(Gary Trauner, WY-AL):

Pennsylvania (State Legislature, both houses):

New Mexico(Harry Teague, NM-02):

Kentucky(Bruce Lunsford, KY-SEN):

Nebraska(Scott Kleeb, NB-SEN):

Friggin’ IDAHO (Larry LaRocco, ID-Sen):

Maine (CHEERS to Tom Allen, ME-Sen):

Wisconsin (State Legislature, both houses):

New Jersey(Linda Stender, NJ-07):

Oklahoma (Andrew Rice, OK-Sen):

South Dakota(State Legislature, upper house):


Georgia(Jim Martin, GA-Sen):

Rhode Island(governing well):

Michigan(State legislature, upper house):

Alaska(Mark Begich, AK-Sen):

Missouri (Jay Nixon, MO-Gov):

West Virginia (GORGEOUS Anne Barth, WV-02):

Originally posted to AdmiralNaismith on Mon Sep 08, 2008 at 11:05 AM PDT.


Best sleeper House pickup in Dixie

54%351 votes
12%79 votes
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26%169 votes
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| 642 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips, Recs and Country Captain (15+ / 0-)

    Anyone here from South Carolina? I love your food, and I salute you for fighting the good fight in the belly of the beast.

    If one of you has a South Carolina-centered political blog, you might want to bring it to the attention of the 50-state blog project at MYDD.

    PALINTOLOGY: The study of John McCain's campaign for President

    by AdmiralNaismith on Mon Sep 08, 2008 at 11:07:14 AM PDT

    •  curious about your advice (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      are you saying that you don't think Obama should or can compete in the West and South at the same time?

      Because that seems to be his overall strategy.

      •  Obama Can Because He Has the Money.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...but in a typical year of limited campaign resources, the best strategy is to isolate a couple targets in the South and bombard the West with its virtually free media markets.  Even when Democrats are 30 points behind, it makes no sense to ignore media markets as bargain-basement as Aberdeen, SD, and Grand Forks, ND.

      •  Seems to stretch it a little thin (0+ / 0-)

        There are the key states like NC, VA, FL, CO and NV, which are in the south and west, and are very, very close. By all means Obama should campaign heavily in those and the midwestern firewall states, too.

        And then there are the OTHE Southern and Western states where the gap is somewhat wider and would take more effort to close.

        In the West, there's MT, ND, SD, maybe a shot at AZ, and AK was in play before you know who came aboard.

        In the South, there's the cotton belt, including MS and GA, where Obama has definitely been campaigning, and maybe an outside shot at SC, AL, LA, all as one strip. The strategy would be dependent on heavy black turnout, Southern Republican discontent with McCain, and working class whites hard hit by the economy, who might vote Democrat to bring back some New Deal relief. Those three factors together could win some deep south states, if Obama wants it bad enough to go to the mat.

        But it seems to me he'd have to choose between those two clusters, Big Sky and Deep South. His resources aren't infinite, and if he made a half-assed try for all of them, I expect he'd probably lose them all without even diverting McCain.  

        PALINTOLOGY: The study of John McCain's campaign for President

        by AdmiralNaismith on Mon Sep 08, 2008 at 11:48:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Does SC have a particular food? (0+ / 0-)

      I like "southern food" generally, but have not traveled enough in the south to know of more local trends.

  •  Presidential race in SC. (3+ / 0-)

    Obama should not even bother stepping one toe in's dead red.

    •  I'm not arguing. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Only real reason to go would be if he could help Ketner or Miller or someone downticket like that.

      The real firewall states that need at least 60% of Obama's time and money are VA, NC, OH, FL, IN, MO, CO, NV.  10% to any of the 21 Kerry/Gore states that might need some attention to defense, and 30% reaching out to those red states where we could get our foot in the door and make them divert time and money.

      We're going to have to do something to change SC, eventually.

      PALINTOLOGY: The study of John McCain's campaign for President

      by AdmiralNaismith on Mon Sep 08, 2008 at 11:15:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Only Way SC Changes.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AdmiralNaismith if Latino growth is such that, combined with blacks, they become a supermajority capable of overpowering whites in the voting booth.  But that's counting on alot.  First and foremost, the hypothetical future might of Latino voters is the most overrated predicted trend in American politics.  It'll be decades before Latino voters constitute a large enough block of likely voters to swing more than a handful of states.  None of the Old Confederacy states would be among that handful.  Furthermore, expect rising conflict between blacks and Latinos all over the country, and expect voting habits to shift as a consequence of that conflict.

    •  Yup... but other southern states are possible (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      GA, AR, VA, LA and NC are all possible

  •  Thanks for the research, and for reminding us all (3+ / 0-)

    that the goal is to get votes on election day. A refreshing break from Palin all day.

  •  How's the economy there? What's it based on? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AdmiralNaismith, testvet6778

    From what I remember from a long-ago roommate, South Carolina was one of those places where libertarianism met good ol' boy-ism. My friend (male) had waist-length hair and told stories about smoking pot on his porch and waving as the cops drove by. His long hair and blatant pot-smoking were OK because he was "one of their own," but good luck to any stranger passing through town who tried that.

    But I think I also remember him saying that SC had a schizophrenic nature - part former plantation society, part urban. Don't remember whether the rift was north-south, east-west, or highlands/lowlands, but it sounded then like there were parts of the state that weren't relics of the plantation society.

    McCain: n., a sporulating fruiting body of the Bush-Cheney plasmodial slime mold

    by 1BQ on Mon Sep 08, 2008 at 11:17:07 AM PDT

    •  SC is still red neck for the most part (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that is one of the reasons the Rs run the state for the most part, but with Barack  many people who have never bothered to register to vote (minorities) are or have registered in record numbers  but some districts no matter who runs as a Democrat  they won't win  Lexington County and Aiken County which make up most of the 2nd District are 90% Republican I am probably the only Democrat in my entire neighborhood  (I used the back pay from the VA to buy a nice house, my wife deserved it) and Joe Wilson who I despise is also a retired Reserve Colonel  and all of his sons have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and his youngest will go in when he's old enough, they live near me and it is surprising to see a college kid driving a car with Congressional license plates (lol)  with Fort Jackson and Sumter AFB in the district god old Joe is safe     ergggggggggg

    •  economy is based on military bases colleges (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and state employees  SC02 is the home to many of them   house prices in Columbia area/Lexington are rising  we are more stable than other states  we lost our manufacturing years ago  (the mills) and those people adjusted out of the house market more than a decade ago  just the beach areas where the prices were jumped up by speculators  Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head  they have dropped almost 25% but beach houses always cost to much

  •  Watch NC-10. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AdmiralNaismith, llywrch, Sam James

    Daniel Johnson vs. Pat McCreepy. Though I live in Georgia, but I was born and raised in that district and visit often.

    Johnson is a solid candidate and there seems to be a good deal of energy behind him. NC-10 is a GOP district, but there are a lot of Rethugs who are fed up with McCreepy. Besides the fact that McHenry is a total creep, a lot of voters are finally starting to ask, "What has the GOP done for us lately".
    I'd say Kissell in NC-08 has a better shot, but I wouldn't rule out NC-10.

    The loudest cries for war come from those who have never seen one.

    by MadGeorgiaDem on Mon Sep 08, 2008 at 11:19:03 AM PDT

    •  And Remember NC-11 Tossed Taylor In 2006 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AdmiralNaismith, MadGeorgiaDem

      For the times they are a changing. Not only did Heath Shuler beat Chainsaw Charles Taylor in 2006 but this year the GOP's choice to try to win that seat back Carl Mumpower actually suspended his campaign because the 11ths GOP Faithful were just not wingnutty enough for him... That and the fact he raised only $800. Go Mumpower!! Go!! Far away from us.

      "But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope." Barack Obama

      by Sam James on Mon Sep 08, 2008 at 11:37:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Glad to rec it! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AdmiralNaismith, testvet6778

    Keep up the good work!

  •  Good Diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AdmiralNaismith, llywrch, testvet6778

    First off a good south carolina blog is  

    Second, the biggest problems for the state is lack of a good fundraising base in the state.  Also, the pathetic voter turnout.  There are a number of groups working on that luckily like the Progressive Network  South Carolina New Democrats are an off shoot of the DLC but are more interested in strategies for getting people elected than ideological sniping.

    Its a hard state for Dem's to win but at somepoint with enough work it can happen.

    Our virtues are usually only our vices in disguise. La Rochefoucauld

    by Parmenides on Mon Sep 08, 2008 at 11:33:13 AM PDT

  •  Big Sky Strategy All The Way.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AdmiralNaismith, testvet6778

    Excellent work as always with these state profile diaries.  Your point about the Obama campaign choosing between the Northern Plains and the south is a no-brainer.  Even under ideal conditions (say John Spratt as the Democratic nominee), South Carolina would not got Democratic in a Presidential election.  Most of the South is out of reach for the foreseeable future, and to whatever extent there is an opening, I think the Obama campaign's outreach to Virginia and North Carolina is sufficient for the time being (Georgia was an overreach).  With any other candidate, Arkansas would be a battleground this year as well, but racism looms particularly large there given its small (by southern standards) black population.  Beyond that though, the battleground has expanded enough to where we can and should write off the South with a clear conscience.  As a rule, it'll be to the benefit of local and state Democrats anyway.

    The Northern Plains, on the other hand, have long showed their willingness to abandon GOP orthodoxy and elect solid populists (Jon Tester, George McGovern, Tom Daschle, Byron Dorgan).  And the media markets are much cheaper as well.  

    I would have sung a different tune four years ago, but it's pretty clear that the South Carolinas of this country are politically irredeemable.  Instead of driving ourselves crazy trying to get through to them, we need to take our message to those willing to listen.

  •  How one SC district can flip (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    What people down in SC know is that the Second District, the one with the Marine captain running in it, has voted a majority for the Democrat in other statewide races--lieutenant governor, superintendent of education. So, it's possible. Of all the districts that were gerrymandered in 2000 to protect Republican candidates, here's where the Second is a lot like the Mississippi district that, in a special election last spring, threw out a Republican with a ten-point Democrat win. Close to a third of the residents are black and the district is a real economic mix of poor and affluent voters. The trick for the Marine will be to do what happened in Mississippi, which is to keep moderate whites while driving high voter turnout among blacks. So the question is: is there something happening in the Presidential race that might easily drive up black voter turnout? Something once in a lifetime? Something the gerrymanderers back in 2000 could never have anticipated. Something totally unanticipated that would thoroughly excite black voters to come out in strong numbers for the Democratic side. Well, if there is something like that, well, then, this is a race to watch.

    •  Miller, SC-2 best chance for flip (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The second district is the most favorable for Democrats. Recent redistricting incorporated urban parts of the state's biggest city, Columbia. Compared to SC-1, the second has a much higher African-American population and Miller's military background is a big selling point in a district with 5 nearby bases. Like Tim said, unlike other SC districts, Democratic candidates have won in the Second proving that it can happen.

      The guy he's up against, Joe Wilson, is also weak compared to most incumbents. He doesn't have a lot of cash like Henry Brown does in the Ketner race. I like Ketner a lot, but her district is not nearly as favorable to Democrats.

      Great SC blogs: Crack the Bell and Elonkey

  •  SC political blog (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There are a couple South Carolinian blogs around.  My favorite is Elonkey  

    Another good one is
    There has been some good stuff in there that may help explain the Miller lead in the poll.

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