Friday, February 16, 2007

Excitement abounds as Obama brings campaign to South Carolina

By Jim Davenport for the Associated Press:

Sen. Barack Obama's first presidential campaign visit to South Carolina on Friday is generating excitement, and officials predict a crowd of several thousand people in this early voting state where half the Democratic primary voters are black.

Several outlets giving away the 4,000 tickets had exhausted their allotment for the Columbia event. Lachlan McIntosh, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said blacks picked up more than half of the 1,000 tickets the party distributed.

White voters have been anticipating Obama's visit, too, notes Francis Marion University political scientist Neal Thigpen, who closely follows South Carolina presidential politics.

Since 1980, he said, he can't recall any primary candidate drawing such a crowd, which will likely be filled with curious and undecided voters.

White Democrats have found something in Obama that they've been looking for since President John F. Kennedy, Thigpen said.

"I don't think they thought the Kennedy they were looking for would be a black man," Thigpen said.

Obama's South Carolina campaign is just getting off the ground. His two staffers have no statewide campaign experience and he is far behind Sen. Hillary Clinton in fundraising, Thigpen said.

"I don't see him beating Mrs. Clinton among blacks here," Thigpen said.

Clinton received endorsements this week from two key black leaders who backed former Sen. John Edwards in 2004.

Obama also was set to visit Claflin University, a historically black college, on Saturday. His trip comes during a busy week for presidential politics in South Carolina, which holds the first Southern primary for both parties in 2008.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., visits over the weekend. Clinton opens her bid Monday at Allen University, a historically black college and Sen. John McCain of Arizona also has a visit scheduled this weekend.

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