Even before Sen. Bernie Sanders began surging in early state and national polls, the Hillary Clinton campaign viewed South Carolina as her firewall, mainly due to her much higher standing and name recognition with black voters. But there are signs that the Clinton team may be falling behind the Sanders campaign, both in terms of organizing on the ground and exciting black voters, even as former Secretary Clinton maintains a large lead in the polls and prognosticators like FiveThirtyEight.com give her overwhelming odds of winning the state’s primary in two weeks.
As of last week, the Clinton campaign had only two campaign offices in South Carolina: one in Charleston and another in the capital, Columbia, with just 14 full-time staffers including state director Clay Middleton. The campaign also has nine “get out the vote” sites – smaller-scale sites devoted to turnout – across the state.
The Sanders campaign, meanwhile, had 240 staffers on the ground as of last week – 80 percent of them African-American – spread across 10 offices statewide.
“That’s real infrastructure,” said one veteran South Carolina political consultant who was involved in the 2008 effort to elect Barack Obama and who spoke on background. “[Donald] Trump lost Iowa because his campaign didn’t have infrastructure and Ted Cruz did. That’s what gets people to the polls. And Hillary is the very person who should know about infrastructure, because that’s how she lost to Obama in 2008 in the first place.”