As the Democratic National Convention got underway in Charlotte Monday, the chairman of the South Carolina party had a message for Palmetto State delegates.
“Get up off your ass and get to work,” Dick Harpootlian said in a breakfast meeting at the delegation’s hotel near the Charlotte airport, “Everyone wants to sit around and talk political philosophy and political strategy. But… there’s nothing more rewarding or more fun than going door-to ”
Harpootlian’s message was meant as a wake-up call to local party leaders in a state where Democrats have been decidedly trounced at the statewide level since losing control of the Senate 12 years ago.
Since there are no statewide elections in South Carolina this year, and the Palmetto State will likely vote Republican in November, Harpootlian and others have instead devoted some of their time campaigning for President Barack Obama in North Carolina.
While Obama won that state in 2008, most polls have him slightly behind Mitt Romney in the current polls. “If we get the electoral votes of North Carolina for Barack Obama, Romney cannot win,” Harpootlian told South Carolina Radio Network, “If you want to drive a stake through the heart of the Republicans, this is the place to do it.”
Harpootlian insists the party is not “abandoning” South Carolina. He says the idea is that volunteers would spend a day or two across the border.
But Election Day 2012 for South Carolina Democrats does not appear to be any more promising than other recent years. While Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn is expected to win re-election, the party is only believed to be competitive in one of the other six congressional races (that would be the new 7th District, where former Georgia legislator Gloria Bromell-Tinubu is taking on Republican Tom Rice).
Meanwhile, the party is fighting to simply avoid losing even more ground in the South Carolina legislature, where Republicans hold a 76-48 advantage in the House and a 26-19 edge in the Senate.
“We’re in South Carolina. It’s kind of hard to run across a Democrat who’s proud to be a Democrat,” Democratic legislator Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter told the delegation Monday, “Especially white people.”
Cobb-Hunter’s remarks got applause from the audience, of which a small majority was African-American. She added that she hopes the convention will fire up grassroots leaders to do a better job organizing at the local level.
Ashley Byrd contributed to this report