Posted: January 26, 2008 6:16 PM
Turnout Appears Heavy in Crucial South Carolina Primary
With analysts saying the future of Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign is hanging in the balance, South Carolina Democrats showed up in large numbers to cast their ballots Saturday.
Media reports indicated that good weather and more than a week of intense campaigning resulted in heavy turnout throughout the state.
“In Richland County, a predominately African American Greenview precinct, poll workers reported that nearly 25 percent of all registered voters had cast ballots by 10:30[a.m.],” The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. reported Saturday afternoon. “That’s amazing considering voter turnout in some primaries doesn’t reach 25 percent all day.”
Heavy turnout, especially in black communities could help Obama, who led both Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards by double digits in most public opinion surveys headed into the Palmetto State’s primary.
But campaign officials urged caution ahead of the voting, Obama spokesman Bill Burton told the Washington Post, “New Hampshire has taught us not to follow the polls too closely.”
Should Obama emerge victorious from Saturday’s vote, it could further help the first-term senator close the nation-wide lead the former first lady has enjoyed. Recent surveys have found the contest down to a 9-point lead for Clinton, down from 24 points in early December.
The Clinton who campaigned the most in South Carolina in the final days of the race appeared to be not the senator, but former President Bill Clinton, who has taken sharp aim at Obama, criticizing his positions and the media’s treatment of the senator.
“[Obama] ran as a Democratic candidate for president who happens to be black, not as the black candidate. And the Clinton campaign set out deliberately… to make him the black candidate,” Mark Shields told the NewsHour on Friday. “Bill Clinton is already into a pre-spin about the South Carolina result. And it reads this way: ‘They tell me Hillary can’t win down here because blacks are going to support Barack Obama overwhelmingly.’”
Despite some criticism, the Clinton campaign showed no plans of changing its strategy as Bill Clinton crisscrossed South Carolina.
“He’s the most popular Democrat in the country; he is the most successful president in recent memory, and attacks on him by Senator Obama and his surrogates will be rejected by voters,” Howard Wolfson, a Clinton spokesman, told The New York Times.
For Edwards, the closing days of the South Carolina campaign saw the native son gaining on Clinton in the polls. Edwards, who has stressed a populist message of radical reform in Washington, looked for South Carolina, a state he won four years ago, to keep his campaign viable.
Voters said both candidates crossed the line in the closing days of the raucous campaign. Three in four Obama voters told Associated Press exit pollsters that Clinton had attacked Obama unfairly and slightly fewer than half accused their own candidate of attacking Clinton unfairly. Two-thirds of Clinton voters said Obama attacked her unfairly and nearly as many said she attacked him unfairly.
South Carolina stands as the last official test before the mammoth Super Tuesday contest, where some 22 states will go to the polls in a single day.