Former George W. Bush adviser, Machiavellian political strategist and current Super PAC puppetmaster Karl Rove thinks South Carolina will be a tossup in this fall’s presidential election, even predicting that President Barack Obama could eke out a narrow win in this deeply conservative state.
Rove posted a 50-state electoral breakdown last week based on statewide polling across the country, showing President Obama with a three-point lead over Republican Mitt Romney in the Palmetto State. An Obama victory in South Carolina this fall would be historic, considering Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat to win the state. Republican nominee John McCain carried South Carolina in 2008 by nine points.
While there hasn’t been much recent polling in South Carolina on which Rove could base his prediction, the surveys that have been conducted show a tight race shaping up between Obama and Romney. An October 2011 NBC/Marist poll showed Romney with a six-point lead over Obama, with 14 percent still undecided. Though poll aggregator extraordinaire Nate Silver hasn’t begun compiling state-level tallies, aggregator David Leip gives Romney a one-point lead.
The most recent Winthrop poll did not ask South Carolinians about the president or his job approval, but pollsters found in December that Obama held a higher approval rating in the Palmetto State than Republican Gov. Nikki Haley. That could prove to be a significant liability given how closely Gov. Haley has hitched her political fortunes onto Romney’s, though Obama’s healthy lead in most national polls suggests that Romney’s hypothetical cabinet remains a moot point for now.
The Obama team maintained a significant presence in South Carolina ahead of the 2008 primary, but largely abandoned the state after their decisive victory over Hillary Clinton. Given how hard it will be for President Obama to hold on to swing states such as North Carolina and Virginia this time around, it’s unlikely the campaign will divert resources to South Carolina this time around.
If the campaign wanted to contest South Carolina this year, it may have to comply with a myriad of voter suppression measures being enacted by Palmetto State Republicans intended to prevent traditionally Democratic voting blocs turning out to vote. A New York Times article this week described the many ballot restrictions being pushed by Republicans in states across country, which may present problems for the Obama campaign on election day.
An Obama spokesperson in South Carolina has not responded to a request for comment about how winnable the campaign believes the Palmetto State could be this time around.