In order to get
our bearings in South Carolina, Dr. Scott Huffmon, a
professor who specializes in Southern politics at Winthrop
University in Rock Hill, gives us a quick look at the
demographics of South Carolina.
make up about 30% of the entire population of South
Carolina, but, as has been widely reported, they will
account for about 50% of the Democratic primary
voters. Huffmon sees these numbers alone as reason
enough to keep the Palmetto State at the front of the pack
in terms primaries.
the reasons why South Carolina is important for Democrats as
an early primary state is, it's the first real
test of a sizable African-American population,"
he notes. "And we're important for the
Republicans because it's the first real test of
traditional conservative Republicans and Christian
interesting in terms of demographics, black women reign
supreme here. Huffmon says they make up anywhere from 30% to
33% of voters in the Democratic primary, whereas black
men account for between 17% and 20%.
conducted one of the largest polls of African-Americans in
South Carolina in August and September of last year.
months ago, the largest bloc of still undecided voters were
African-American females, and they became the real
battleground," Huffmon says.
around the time that Obama started his beauty shop campaign,
visiting popular grooming spots around the state. Meanwhile,
the Clinton campaign deployed Bill. "When we
asked people, 'Why do you support Hillary
Clinton?' The number 1 answer for many women among
African-Americans was Bill Clinton," says Huffmon.
As for white
Democrats last fall, he adds, "Hillary was number 1
by a long stretch. Edwards was number 2 back then, and
Obama was number 3."
thinks the number of black 'undecideds' has
decidedly shrunk, likely in Obama's favor.
"By last September, he had taken the lead among
African-Americans," he says, adding that Clinton was
second, and Edwards had only about 3% support among
black voters. "There's a good bet that
the vast majority of folks here in South Carolina have made
up their minds and tend to be less like New Hampshire
voters where three days out, they're still
undecided -- we're not New Hampshire," he
wondering why we're harkening back to a poll from
last fall, Huffmon says it was one of the only polls,
if not the only poll, to use a statistical sample
large enough of both blacks and whites to be broken
down by race.
The polls that
are coming out now may yield a percentage of voters who
are still in a state of quandary, but they are not reliable
predictors of who exactly those voters are. "So
you can look at the 'undecideds,' but
you would not be able to tell undecideds by race because
there would not be enough of a sample size to do
that," says Huffmon.
When it comes to
indicators for how African-Americans are leaning,
Huffmon is looking toward the MLK day rallies this coming
Sunday and Monday. A big rally to honor Martin Luther
King Jr. will be held at the state's capitol
dome in Columbia on Monday afternoon. Clinton, Edwards,
and Obama are all scheduled to appear there before marching
to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where they will participate in
the CNN/Congressional Black Caucus debate -- also
being cosponsored by the gay rights organization the
National Black Justice Coalition.
isn't looking to the highly publicized "Rally
at the Dome" for intel on black voters.
"It's not the rally that we need to pay
attention to, it's the tiny little gatherings among
smaller groups of less than 100 or so of
African-Americans around the state," he says.
It's at those gatherings where
African-Americans might rehash Senator
Clinton's recent comments about it taking President
Lyndon Johnson to pass legislation in order to make
Dr. King's dream a reality -- which some blacks
saw as diminishing the role that King played in the civil
"They're going to talk about that --
it's going to kind of go underground.
It's maybe not going to be talked about on Meet
The Press, but it's going to be talked
about at prayer breakfasts honoring Dr. King around the
state of South Carolina, and that can only be bad for
Hillary Clinton," says Huffmon. "If that
happens, that's what I'm going to be looking