Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Song of the South

By Shawn Healy
The four major early state contests (IA, NH, NV and SC) are now in our rear-view mirrors and the big state contests begin tomorrow in Florida followed by the 24 states set to hold primaries or caucuses for either Democrats, Republicans or both on Tsunami Tuesday, Feb. 5. What follows is a wrap-up of Saturday's Democratic primary in South Carolina followed by predictions for tomorrow's pivotal GOP primary in Florida.

As I predicted on Friday, Sen. Barack Obama won the South Carolina Democratic primary in blowout fashion, besting Sen. Hillary Clinton by a 55% to 27% count, with former Sen. John Edwards once again pulling up the rear with 18%. He did it on the backs of a record turnout that exceeded even the GOP primary a week earlier. Remember, this is the reddest of states. Obama capitalized on the predominance of African-American voters in this first southern primary, beating Clinton 4-to-1 among black voters and also captured 25% of white voters who otherwise split between Clinton and Edwards.

The impact of Obama's win cements him as a contender for the nomination arguably even with Clinton as the campaign turns to the Feb. 5 primaries on Tsunami Tuesday a mere eight days away. It forces the Clinton's to second-guess Bill's role in the campaign. Exit polls showed his attack dog antics played an important role in late decisions among voters who trended away from the NY senator. Look for him to return to positively touting his wife's record without lambasting the junior senator from IL.

The victory and Clinton's antics also opened the door to Camelot for Obama who received an editorial endorsement from JFK's daughter Caroline yesterday. Sen. Ted Kennedy came on board today with a ringing endorsement at American University and a vow to campaign vigorously for Obama throughout the West and Northeast in the coming days. The impact of these endorsements remains to be seen, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have the most prominent name in Democratic Party politics in your corner as Obama takes on the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton.

The Democrats do face off again tomorrow in Florida, but they have pledged not to campaign there on account of the state being stripped of delegates for moving their primary before the Feb. 5 threshold. Hillary Clinton holds an expansive lead there in the polls, and is expected to tout her victory tomorrow evening in Florida as the first big state affirmation of any Democratic candidacy. The reality is that the race now moves to national channels as Clinton and Obama calculate separate battle plans of how to accumulate delegates. Momentum is key here, and for the moment, regardless of what happens in Florida, it's back on Obama's side.

The GOP standoff in the Sunshine State is of greater consequence. A pitched battle between former Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain has ensued, with former favorite Mayor Rudy Giuliani falling to the wayside and former Gov. Mike Huckabee running on fumes as a distant afterthought. The GOP stripped the state of half its delegates, leaving 57 for the taking in a contest restricted to Republicans only. This seemingly favors Romney as McCain's wins can be attributed largely to support from independents. Mitt's emphasis on his reputation as an economic turn-around agent has resonated here, and he has again spent large sums of money creating an elaborate turnout operation for tomorrow. Depending on the poll you consult, Romney or McCain have the lead, most within the margin of error.

McCain, on the other hand, is celebrating the endorsements of Sen. Mel Martinez on Friday and popular Gov. Charlie Crist on Saturday, not to mention his continued accumulation of newspaper endorsements in Florida and across the country (Giuliani went so far as to tout the fact that he was spurned by all of the "liberal" newspapers). McCain is hopeful that the Cuban-American population (10% of the GOP electorate) will come on board as a result of the Martinez nod, and that his national security credentials resonate with the large military population (active and veterans) in the state.

As of this weekend, I was predicting that Romney would eclipse McCain narrowly in the Sunshine State and move into Feb. 5 with the much-desired momentum, but the Crist endorsement brings this race back to at least toss-up status and perhaps even a McCain victory. The outcome is also dependent upon how far Giuliani falls as his moderate conservative message and emphasis on national security seems to cross over most with McCain supporters. Rudy was also expected to perform well with the Cuban-American community.

Another variable is the wave of early voters who have already made their decisions. The Giuliani camp wisely placed a great deal of emphasis on this, as his campaign has fallen on tough times on the heels of a string of early defeats. Nearly 1 million Floridians have already marked and sealed their ballots, so late-breaking polls may fail to capture these early tendencies. I'll save my analysis of what a distant third place finish means for Giuliani, but you can imagine that it appears as if we're nearing the home stretch with what looks like a two-horse race, and Rudy isn't even on the lead lap.

Check back here on Wednesday for a wrap of tomorrow's Florida results and a look in the crystal ball for what lies ahead with Tsunami Tuesday approaching at a deliberate speed. Nathan and I will record another podcast that day (check out our last several here), and I'll announce the release of a Freedom Museum report on the 2008 election.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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