I'm still not sold on Bernie Sanders, not by any stretch of the imagination, and I doubt any of the regulars here at ZVTS are truly sold on the man. But as Joy-Ann Reid reminds us, Hillary Clinton isn't a given now any more than she was in 2008 and she has a lot of work to do to.
Even before Sen. Bernie Sanders began surging in early state and national polls, the Hillary Clinton campaign viewed South Carolina as her firewall, mainly due to her much higher standing and name recognition with black voters. But there are signs that the Clinton team may be falling behind the Sanders campaign, both in terms of organizing on the ground and exciting black voters, even as former Secretary Clinton maintains a large lead in the polls and prognosticators like FiveThirtyEight.com give her overwhelming odds of winning the state’s primary in two weeks.
As of last week, the Clinton campaign had only two campaign offices in South Carolina: one in Charleston and another in the capital, Columbia, with just 14 full-time staffers including state director Clay Middleton. The campaign also has nine “get out the vote” sites – smaller-scale sites devoted to turnout – across the state.
The Sanders campaign, meanwhile, had 240 staffers on the ground as of last week – 80 percent of them African-American – spread across 10 offices statewide.
“That’s real infrastructure,” said one veteran South Carolina political consultant who was involved in the 2008 effort to elect Barack Obama and who spoke on background. “[Donald] Trump lost Iowa because his campaign didn’t have infrastructure and Ted Cruz did. That’s what gets people to the polls. And Hillary is the very person who should know about infrastructure, because that’s how she lost to Obama in 2008 in the first place.”
The Sanders campaign is using both traditional and innovative strategies to reach voters, including “Bernie Bingo” for seniors who get a ride to the polls after enjoying the board game with the youthful canvassers. Voters in South Carolina have been able to vote early, absentee or in person since January 1, and the Sanders campaign is taking full advantage before the end of early voting for Democrats on February 26.
Primary voting days for Republicans and Democrats are February 20 and 27 respectively.
Don't get me wrong, in the general I think Hillary is far better equipped to withstand the rigors of next fall. Bernie's thin-skinned and cranky and frankly he's just as pragmatic as Hillary when it comes to politics, because he's been in politics for four decades, 25 years at the federal level and only became a freaking Democrat like last Tuesday. But at some point Bernie Sanders decided, much like Barack Obama did in early 2008, that he can win this thing, and he's proceeding to do what he needs to do to win.
Good or bad, Hillary Clinton now has a race on her hands. That is what both sides said they wanted, so here we go.
Be careful what you wish for.