With two contests down, and several more to go, all eyes are now on South Carolina, the first state in the GOP presidential nominating race to boast a significant African-American population. And while as in New Hampshire and Iowa, Blacks will play a minimal role, that doesn’t mean that people of color around the nation should ignore what Republicans will be saying as they vie to win the first-in-the-South primary and, ultimately, the GOP nomination.
Rep. James Clyburn, Congress’s highest-ranking African-American, was waiting for frontrunner Mitt Romney’s arrival in his home state on Wednesday. After congratulating him on his New Hampshire primary win, Clyburn said that in South Carolina, “things are a little bit different.”
“Folks are looking for leaders who are in touch with ordinary people and are compassionate with their fellow human beings,” Clyburn said. “There’s nothing compassionate about Wall Street high rollers who think nothing of shuttering businesses, throwing people out of jobs and families into hard times, and walking away with a fat pay day.”
Clyburn, who was joined by other local political leaders, targeted Romney because the former Massachusetts governor will likely be the one to face off with President Obama in the general election.
“He will be a tough challenger,” notes University of Michigan political scientist Vincent Hutchings. “The very thing that making Romney somewhat vulnerable in the primary process will make him more palpable in the general election and that’s his perceived moderate ideology, compared to the other Republican candidates.”
According to Hutchings, the state of the economy could make it difficult for Obama to run on his record. “Fairly or unfairly, it’s a bad economy by any standard and the economy is the chief criteria by which voters judge presidents,” he says. And while one could argue that it could be worse if not for the policies that administration has implemented, “unemployment is still high and a lot of people are still hurting.” Hutchings predicts that an Obama/Romney contest will be much closer than the one between Obama and Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008.
David Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said that Obama will definitely have to up his game.
“The economy is just starting to pick up and Obama will have to do everything he can to keep it going in that direction,” Bositis said. “If the GOP tries to damage the economy, which it’s perfectly capable of doing, including Romney, and make people suffer if it ups their chances of winning, he has to call them out and make everyone aware of what they’re doing.”
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(Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder)