First Four, Not First Two

Observer alum and South Carolina native Andrew Rice emails with an addendum to my post about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the black vote, pointing out that the analysis — in particular an observation from David Bositis about the lily-white electorate in Iowa and New Hampshire — overlooks the importance of his home state.

From the email:

There is one major primary among the “first four” in which there are a huge number of black voters–South Carolina.

According to 2005 census numbers African Americans make up almost 30 percent of SC’s population–way, way above the national average of 13 percent. Statistics from the 2004 primary show that African Americans made up 38 percent of registered Dems.

But if you look at who actually voted in the primary, blacks turned out in far greater numbers than whites–106,917 to 77,371.

I should stress that it seems like the stats available online are for the primary for statewide offices in July of that year, not for the presidential primary, but I don’t see any reason that the trend wouldn’t hold true in presidential primaries as well, given the demise of the white southern Democrat. No matter what, we’re talking about a lot of black voters. Jesse Jackson won SC in 1988, and even Al Sharpton managed to take 10 percent there in 2004.

Next time around, you can make a case for any one of the three frontrunners taking SC: Obama because of his race, Hillary because Bill is still remembered fondly by black voters in SC, and Edwards because he’s a southerner. (More than the others, Edwards obviously needs a huge showing in SC again in order to have any shot.) Any way you look at it, it’s going to be an interesting contest–and Obama’s best chance for an early victory. If I were him, I’d forget ethanol and start educating myself on the divisive mustard-versus-ketchup barbeque issue.

–Jason Horowitz

First Four, Not First Two