South Carolina Primary round-up 

Obama Rally, John McCain, Hillary Clinton

"It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone's motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal."

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., displeased with comments by Hillary Clinton suggesting Lyndon Johnson was the real agent of change in the Civil Rights movement. Clyburn said her comment and others have him rethinking his pledge to stay on the sidelines during the primary campaign. Source: The New York Times

Too Much Iraq, Not Enough Immigration

On his victory lap after a strong win in New Hampshire, John McCain told a crowd of a few hundred at The Citadel that it was South Carolina's turn to help him win the White House. He gave a little straight talk that may have stuck a little too closely to the distant security threats (Iraq, Iran, Pakistan), missing the issue closer to home that South Carolina Republicans are most interested in: immigration.

There was one instant when he sort of mentioned the immigration debate. "We must secure our borders," he told his supporters. There was an uncomfortable pause where the audience didn't know whether to clap. And then they did — a little.

McCain's got a good answer to the assertions that he's soft on immigration. Really. He'll tell you that he wants to secure our border and figure out who is here and whether they should be allowed to stay. He'll tell you that he understands voters want the borders secured first, so that's what he'll do. The problem is that he'll only tell you that when prompted.

"Many people are trying to redefine amnesty," Sen. Jim DeMint, a supporter of Mitt Romney, told us a few days later while laying out Romney's argument against McCain. "When the McCain-Kennedy bill came out, many people thought that it was amnesty."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a strong McCain supporter, said that charges McCain supported amnesty were just politics. "John McCain understands politics and immigration and that we have to fix this problem by fixing our borders first." —Greg Hambrick

"Aparently not."

A voice off screen on NBC as New Hampshire votes were being counted. Tim Russert had just been asked whether there was a chance college towns could turn the race back to Obama. Chris Matthews announced the win for Hillary in the next moment.

Rally Playlists

John McCain

"Heads Carolina, Tails California"
"You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet"
"Standing on Top of the World"
"Sweet Emotion"
"Tell Her About It"
"Let's Get It Started"
"Feel the Vibration"
"Johnny Be Good"

Barack Obama

"There's Hope"
"Only in America"
"Move Along"
"Unwritten"
"Celebration"
"Waiting to Begin"

"I'll be a vigorous and enthusiastic volunteer."

Former Lieutenant Governor candidate and Bowen's Island owner Robert Barber, announcing his support for Sen. Barack Obama. Barber said that Obama reminds him of the "Main Street values" he ran on in 2006. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley also announced his endorsement of Obama.

click to enlarge Cheryl Wilson expresses her excitement at meeting Barack Obama - JOSHUA CURRY
  • Joshua Curry
  • Cheryl Wilson expresses her excitement at meeting Barack Obama

Obama: Yes, We Can

As everybody with a "presidential candidate" in front of their name moves to the change bus, Barack Obama is trying to secure his role in the driver's seat. The candidate, who has been talking about hope and change for months, told the crowd of 4,500 Charleston residents at the College of Charleston that the naysayers (read: former President Bill Clinton) are wrong.

"Yes, we can," the crowd chanted along with Obama.

The candidate's brief remarks came after the surprise endorsement by Sen. John Kerry, also no stranger to the "presidential candidate" moniker.

Unlike his graying self, Kerry stressed that agents of change are typically young, fresh faces like Obama.

"Change has been won by young presidents and young leaders," Kerry said. "We are electing judgment and character, not years on this earth."

With signs surrounding him reading, "Change We Can Believe In," Obama told the crowd the time is now.

"You came out because you know we can't afford the same old politics anymore," he said. "There is no problem we can't fix. No destiny we can't fulfill."

The biggest cheers came when Obama spoke to the large number of students about making college affordable. But he said it won't be for free. Students cheered his calls for volunteering while in school and for graduates to spend time in the Peace Corps.

"We invest in you. You invest in America," he told the crowd. —Greg Hambrick

click to enlarge josh.jpg

Welcome to the Show

I had to get to the front of the crowd. The best possible view and precious seconds were being lost as a few thousand Obama supporters poured into the Cistern Yard at the College of Charleston. But some official-looking guy with a clipboard was directing me toward a small group just inside the gates.

I considered using a spin move to get around him until the word came back — we were going up on the Cistern to sit in the bleachers behind the podium. We might even be on TV. Ignoring the envious glances of lesser folk, we privileged few wound our way through the crowd toward the barricaded stage entrance.

It dawned on me that perhaps my "random" selection had, in fact, been due to my all-American good looks. Evidently calculated to project an image of Obama's diverse appeal, the bleachers contained a well-chosen cross-section of the crowd from young students to older professionals in every available skin color.

click to enlarge Barack Obama speaks at Thursday's rally - JOSHUA CURRY

A stocky man with a crew cut and an ear-piece confirmed my suspicion that this was a set-up. "In about two minutes you're all going to be on national television," he said. "The crowd is going to get their energy from you. The most important thing is to make sure you have fun up here, but don't ever stop smiling. After all, you don't want your grandma calling to ask why you were the only one on stage not smiling." Sorry bud, but I'm pretty sure Grammy is voting for Ron Paul.

While waiting impatiently for Obama to appear and inspire the crowd to fits of patriotic ecstasy, I felt peer pressure to join the ragged chants of "O-Bam-A" awkwardly begun by my fellow bench warmers.

Already planning to vote for the man and now pressed into service as his cheerleader too, I understood why so many Americans are disenchanted with politics. If I had known the price of a front row seat was my dignity, I might have just stayed home and watched CNN.

Largely a rehash of his Iowa victory speech, a fact which was clearly not lost on much of the crowd, Obama's speech lacked some of the vigorous eloquence we've come to expect from the senator. Caught up in the moment though, I did my part to enthusiastically clap and even got to shake his hand, but ultimately Obama was upstaged by his own opening act, John Kerry.

Not to worry, though. My distinguished service earned me the right to wave a hand-painted sign straight from Obama campaign headquarters which read "The Real Deal." How ironic. —Joshua Eboch

"I listened to you, and, in the process, found my own voice."

Hillary Clinton in her speech after winning the New Hampshire primary.

Primary Madness

Candidates are criss-crossing the state in hopes of drudging up some last-minute votes. Aside from the high-profile stops by Obama and McCain, John Edwards volunteered at the Lowcountry Food Bank last week and Fred Thompson blew through the Lowcountry on his 11-day bus tour, better known as his last stand. Mike Huckabee is also certain to move through the area in advance of the make-or-break Jan. 19 GOP event.

Edwards' competition in the Democratic race will likely be returning after the Nevada caucuses Jan. 19. Obama and Hillary Clinton will be attending the NAACP's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Rally at the Statehouse. All the candidates will be at a Democratic debate that night and at a State Democratic Party picnic in Columbia on Jan. 25, the eve of the Democratic Primary. —Greg Hambrick


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