Economy will be voters' top issue in 2010

The economy will be the top issue for S.C. voters in 2010. That could give Democrats a rare opening in Republican-dominated South Carolina if voters like whatDemocratic candidates have to say about jobs and landing new industry for the state.

The state’s poor economy — featuring the nation’s third-highest jobless rates — gives voters a reason to listen to Democratic candidates, said Larry Sabato, a Universityof Virginia political scientist. To win over voters, however, candidates will have to have a jobs plan. The contenders know that and are working to boost their economicdevelopment credentials.

The economy could affect the 2010 races is other ways as well. Candidates say campaign money is tighter than ever.

U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, a freshman Republican from Greenville, had a record first quarter in his fundraising efforts. But others say about a third of typical campaign donations — particularly those from out-of-state donors — are off the table because of the poor economy.

Having less cash could make grass-roots groups even more important, particularly in primaries.

Last year, those groups helped then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama win the S.C. Democratic primary. More recently, grass-roots groups launched anti-tax “Tea Parties” andbecame active in county GOP leadership races.

-----------------2010'S TALKING POINTS

How the recession has changed S.C. politics

Budget crunches to come. The state will have budget problems for years. The Rockefeller Institute says state revenues will not recover until at least 2011. That means candidates will have to answer questions about budget cuts and taxes.

Jobs, jobs, jobs. Democrats will make jobs their central campaign issue. Republicans will counter by claiming the mantle of — not Gov. Mark Sanford — but the late Gov. Carroll Campbell, who brought BMW to South Carolina.

Anti-incumbency. Jobless voters are unhappy voters, and they could look to take out their unhappiness on political incumbents. That’s bad news for Republicanspotentially since they control the Governor’s Mansion and General Assembly. Look for candidates — even those who have been in office for years — to run as outsiders.