Palmetto State Picks
South Carolina is a state that Sen. Barack Obama needs to win badly to remain competitive with Sen. Hillary Clinton as the campaign assumes a national flavor after Tuesday's Florida Primary (Note: the Democrats are not campaigning here so a likely victory for Clinton will be discounted in similar fashion to her Michigan win. Florida was denied all of its Democratic delegates by the party for leapfrogging the Feb. 5 deadline imposed on all but four states: IA, NH, NV and SC.). Polls show that the Illinois Senator retains a double-digit lead, so Obama is my surefire pick to click.
The battle for second place is between Hillary Clinton and native son John Edwards. The former NC senator is running a strong third in the polls in a state he defeated Sen. John Kerry in 2004, and remains a long shot for the overall nomination. He does continue to collect delegates, so should Obama and Clinton continue to divide delegates roughly evenly where neither garners a majority, Edwards could stand as the kingmaker come August. This is not just wishful thinking from a political junkie, mind you, especially if Edwards upholds his promise to remain in the race through the convention.
Expect Clinton to edge Edwards in a battle for second place and the corresponding delegates. Edwards' rationale for remaining in the race will be questioned from here on out where he will be encouraged to join Dennis Kucinich and other early dropouts on the sideline as spectators in this historic matchup.
Unfortunately, this contest has assumed a starkly racial flavor. While African-American voters support Obama overwhelmingly, white voters split their allegiance by similar counts between Clinton and Edwards. Some have suggested that this is a strategic calculation by the Clintons who would love Obama to become the proverbial "black candidate" with a narrow base of support nationally, when Obama sought to shun this label from Day One. He has arguably embraced it conveniently in South Carolina, but this could spell trouble come Feb. 5.
A large quantity of ink and chatter has been devoted to the devolution of this contest into personal attacks leveled by the Clinton's at the junior senator who has been calling for an end to political polarization. He woke up one morning recently and found himself in an alley fight instead, and he's responded with some violent counterpunches of his own. Obama remarked that he's not certain who he's campaigning against, Hillary or her husband. The correct answer is both.
Is Bill's verbal sparring with Obama representative of conduct unbecoming of a former president? He's served as Hillary's surrogate in South Carolina this week and the state's voters will weigh in on this tomorrow. My guess is the jabs hurt Hillary here, but may seal the deal in later contests as the largely untested Obama is clearly battered. Come fall, whoever wins the nomination may come to regret the child play of the past couple of weeks. Rest assured that Republicans are sitting back with puzzled amusement and eager anticipation.