S.C. Democrats will not write off Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the Palmetto State on Nov. 8.
But some, including her S.C. campaign director, say it is more realistic to hope that a strong showing on election day will trim GOP nominee Donald Trump’s Palmetto State margin of victory and help down-ballot S.C. Democratic candidates.
“We definitely want to make the race competitive,” said Alycia Albergottie, a Columbia native who last month was named director of Clinton’s S.C. campaign. “We want to identify and rally our troops, everyone that supports Hillary Clinton, and also encourage people to vote (for) Democrats down the ticket.”
In recent months, several polls in recent months have given Democrats reason for optimism. They rejoiced on Aug. 11 when an S.C. Democratic Party-commissioned poll showed Clinton was within 2 percentage points of Trump.
An Aug. 21 Gravis Marketing poll had Trump ahead 4 points. And, on Aug. 15, NBC News moved South Carolina to “lean” Republican from solidly Republican on its online battleground map.
More recent polls have given Trump a stronger advantage.
“This is South Carolina — it’s a predominately red state,” said Caleb Emerson, an 18-year-old volunteering this fall in Clinton’s downtown Columbia campaign office. “It’s very good that we even have a chance.”
S.C. Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison said Clinton has “a shot” at carrying South Carolina but “all the stars have to align.” In large part that hinges on whether the Clinton campaign invests — money and staff — in the state, he said.
Harrison said he has lobbied the Democratic nominee for support and, if elected, she has “given me her commitment to rebuilding Southern Democratic parties.”
“It’s still going to be tough for us here,” Harrison said. “In order to compete and win in South Carolina, you have to have the resources. It’s going to be important that we raise the money and get people on the ground and get people making calls. ... That’s one of the big fights that we’re engaged in, is making sure that we can raise the funds to compete.”
Now, the Clinton campaign only has one paid staffer on the ground in South Carolina – 32-year-old Albergottie, who works out of the Harden Street campaign office that opened on Sunday.
The campaign has moved two architects of Clinton’s massive S.C. primary victory – state director Clay Middleton and political director Jalisa Washington – to battleground states Florida and Ohio.
But Albergottie said the campaign has made “several thousand” calls to S.C. voters over the past month and has been encouraged by the support found in South Carolina.
Scott Buchanan, a political scientist at The Citadel, is skeptical of Clinton’s chances of winning a state that typically votes for Republicans by a 55-45 margin. “If she can break 46 percent, I think she walks away and says it’s a win,” Buchanan said.
But that might be all Clinton needs to carry the state if third-party candidates, including like Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, snag a sizable portion of could-have-been Trump voters, said Tyler Jones, a Democratic political operative.
Jones, who advises Democrats in the S.C. House, says the presidential race in South Carolina is a toss-up that could affect several down-ballot races.
“I’m seeing a lot of House races where Republicans are extremely nervous about the Trump effect,” Jones said. “House districts that normally aren’t very competitive are going to be tossups this year because of Trump, and some that are usually competitive are going to lean Democratic.”
Still, state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, questions Clinton’s chances.
“If she wins, that means some of our State House and our congressional candidates stand a great chance,” Cobb-Hunter said. “I look forward to being proven wrong.”
The GOP’S SC edge
South Carolina last went Democratic in a presidential race in 1976. A look at the S.C. margin of victory for GOP presidential candidates since then.
2012: + 10.5 percent, Mitt Romney over Barack Obama
2008: + 9 percent, John McCain over Obama
2004: + 17.1 percent, George W. Bush over John Kerry
2000: + 15.9 percent, Bush over Al Gore
1996: + 6 percent, Bob Dole over Bill Clinton
1992: + 8.2 percent, George H.W. Bush over Clinton
1988: + 24 percent, George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis
1984: + 26 percent, Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale
1980: + 1.5 percent, Reagan over Jimmy Carter
SOURCE: U.S. Election Atlas, SCVotes.org.
Recent SC polls
Trafalgar Group (R) on Sept. 6-12
First Tuesday Strategies (R) on Aug. 30 - Sept. 1
Survey Monkey/Washington Post on Aug. 9 - Sept. 1
Feldman Group (D) on Aug. 18-21 : Tie when voters offered four candidates, Trump +2 when thre are only two choices
Gravis on Aug. 15-17
Public Policy Polling (D) on Aug. 9-10
When Deep South states last went Democratic
Florida: 2012, for Barack Obama
North Carolina: 2008, for Obama
Arkansas: 1996, for Bill Clinton
Kentucky: 1996, for Clinton
Louisiana: 1996, for Clinton
Tennessee: 1996, for Clinton
Georgia: 1992, for Clinton
Alabama: 1976, for Jimmy Carter
Mississippi: 1976, for Carter
South Carolina: 1976, for Carter