There are a few things you can trust about South Carolina politics:
It’s Presidential Red. You know the state will be blood red for the GOP candidate in a presidential election.
The Politics is Not All Local.You know that race is just about always going to play a role either outright or right beneath the surface in most campaigns and policy issues in the state.
It’s Competitive. You also know that South Carolina’s growing population, increasing youth vote and young professional class are combining to make the state more competitive on a local level than it has been in generation.
These are all things that political observers know about South Carolina politics, but South Carolina plays a bigger role in national politics than most people realize.
Today’s Democratic primary in the state represents a unique chance for Democrats to pick up a seat in newly created 7thdistrict in the northeastern part of South Carolina. This new district 7 which stretches from Florence to near Myrtle Beach is ripe for a political upset, and it has thus far attracted a pretty interesting group of candidates.
While initially the Democratic nominee was assumed to be State Representative Ted Vick, he engaged in the most untimely Bobby Petrino impression in recent political memory and had to drop out of the race.
Now the race falls to Gloria Tinubu, an African American economics professor who recently moved to the District after serving in elected office in Georgia, and Preston Brittain, a 32 year old white attorney, who has won the endorsement of South Carolina heavyweight Jim Clyburn.
That’s right: Clyburn has endorsed a 32 year old White candidate over an experienced (albeit in Georgia) African American female candidate in a South Carolina primary. What kind of new political math are we seeing in the state?
If you want to know the real butterfly effect of the state, how one Democratic Primary in newly created District 7 can resonate in the halls of power in Congress eight hours up Interstate 95 into Washington, D.C. you have to ask one of the elder statesmen of the state Party, former Congressional Black Caucus Chair and Assistant leader for the Democratic Party James Clyburn. He spoke at length with Politic365 about the Democratic Primary in South Carolina district 7 on Tuesday and what the implications of a race like this are for President Obama and the future of Democratic Party as a whole in the United States.
Dr. Jason Johnson: Representative Clyburn, what was your motivation behind your endorsement of Brittain?
Rep. Clyburn: I’ve worked with Preston Brittain’s family, worked on the board at Wofford College in Spartanburg, I got to know his father very, very well. Preston has been active in Young Democrats. Plus many members of my staff, they’ve worked in his campaign. That’s why I stayed out to begin with.
Johnson: So what changed your mind?
Clyburn: Well first I want to say that I never did endorse [Ted] Vick. I did not want to be against my own staff. Basically we had discussions, me and my staff and others and the idea was: Look if you do not get involved we will end up with a nominee that has no chance of winning of November. And all of this is about winning the general election and not having a nominee. And so that’s why I got actively involved. My staff has been telling me for almost a year now that they very much saw in Preston Brittain what the future of the Democratic party in South Carolina is all about.
Johnson: What do you think of these new districts created since 2010?
Clyburn: They’re going to be hard fought races, those of us who have stayed here in South Carolina, I think I know something about the state and voting patterns and I know something about the state’s history. When you see people like Preston Brittain, you see what we need to do to grow our party in South Carolina, if we can get him nominated.
He has a very good chance of winning in November. I know how hard the people for Horry County work to be the anchor district, he’s the only Democrat that can lay the claim to that county. I know a lot of Republicans who say they’ll support him, before I came to Congress, the 6th district was anchored in Florence – and I think that someone from Florence or Horry [county] will be winning in the general.
Johnson: What is going to be most critical for turnout for the fall election 2012 ground game, votes, or some type of intangible?
Clyburn: I would say all three – but I’ll focus on one thing. Whether the Democratic Party makes the investments in a ground game. People have gotten pretty disturbed. When you are spending millions of dollars on television or radio and people know full well that 50 and 20% of all those dollars are going to media buys and consultants and then you come to the community and tell them to organize block by block and get out the vote as volunteers. And people are going to say you’re crazy. Why should I put all my effort in this get out to vote effort when you spend so much money on media buyers? I always say “When you rely on people to work for nothing you’re going to get nothing out of the process.”
By Tuesday night we’ll know if the Democratic Party of South Carolina has a new face to rally behind in the fall. Regardless of the outcome in the primary however, according to Clyburn there will still be massive amounts of work to be done by Democrats in order to ensure another four years for President Barack Obama.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.