Sunday, March 1, 2015

COLUMBIA, SC -- President Barack Obama will visit South Carolina for the first time since winning the state's Democratic presidential primary in 2008.

Obama will attend a youth rally Friday at Benedict College, a historically black private school in Columbia, The White House said. Details about the president's trip will be released later this week.

His visit will come two weeks after Vice President Joe Biden swung through Columbia and Charleston.

South Carolina is one of three states Obama has not visited since becoming president. Utah and South Dakota are the others.

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The president has not come to South Carolina until this week because it is one of the more Republican-dominant states in the country, Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said. Obama failed to top Republican rivals in the Palmetto State on his way to victories in the 2008 and 2012 general elections.

4 POINTS: PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA'S S.C. VISIT


  1. The president is speaking Friday at a Benedict College youth rally in Columbia. More details are coming, the White House said.
  2. Obama is making his first trip to the Palmetto State since Jan. 26, 2008, when he gave his victory speech after the S.C. Democratic presidential primary.
  3. State Democrats see the visit as a chance to energize younger party voters. Republican politicians welcomed the president, though a state GOP party leader suggested he go golfing.
  4. South Carolina is one of three states Obama has not visited since becoming president. Utah and South Dakota are the others.

"It's more about how useful is a visit than any snub of South Carolina," Huffmon said. "You have to make strategic use of a president's time. It's a finite resource."

South Carolina Democrats who supported Obama, former state Rep. Bakari Sellers and former state party chairman Dick Harpootlian, downplayed the president's delay in coming to the state. Sellers said he would have welcomed Obama helping his bid to become lieutenant governor last year.

Harpootlian, who helped raise thousands for Obama's presidential campaigns, said his visit should be inspirational to a generation of South Carolinians.

"Every African-American kid who grew up in poverty, who grew up with mom and no dad, who grew up with the belief that they're life was a dead-end, can say, 'That could be me,' " Harpootlian said.

South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison said he hopes Obama can visit with younger Democrats in a state where the party is looking to overtake a Republican majority.

"We're looking at growing the party and rebuilding the party," Harrison said. "We have a lot of people anxious to see him."

But Republicans could use the president's visit politically, too.

"Obama is red meat to their base," Huffmon said. "They could say something like, 'If you don't get active now, we could lose our state.' "

The head of the S.C. Republican Party sent out a statement about how the president has avoided the state because of his unpopular policies, including the health care insurance law.

"If the President wants to do something more productive than push his liberal agenda on our state, South Carolina has some beautiful golf courses," state GOP chairman Matt Moore said.

Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican who has been critical of some of the White House's policies, said she welcomed Obama to South Carolina.

"We are proud of the people and the successes of our state and look forward to President Obama seeing and experiencing those successes first hand," Haley said.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from Springdale famous for shouting "You lie" during Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress in 2009, said he was very happy about the president's visit.

"It's a compliment that he's coming," said Wilson, who added that he might not be in Columbia on Friday as Congress could vote on Obama's immigration policies.

The president's trip was announced Sunday by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the House's third-ranking Democrat who lives on Columbia. In a statement, Clyburn thanked Benedict College President David Swinton for hosting Obama's visit.

Obama's absence from South Carolina came after a decisive victory in the 2008 Democratic over then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Obama, then a U.S. senator from Illinois, attracted Oprah Winfrey to a campaign rally at Williams-Brice Stadium and spoke at the NAACP's King Day a the Dome rally at the S.C. State House.

His victory speech in Columbia after the primary was his last visit to the Palmetto State.

First lady Michelle Obama has ties to South Carolina. Her great-great grandfather was a slave in Georgetown County, according to University of South Florida researchers.

While Obama has not visited since entering The White House, his second-in-command has become a bit of a South Carolina regular since the 2008 election.

In addition to his trip last month, Biden, who is weighing a 2016 presidential run, visited Columbia twice last year.

He spoke at a voter turnout rally at Allen University in October and delivered the commencement address at the University of South Carolina in May. Biden also headlined the S.C. Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner in 2013.

Source: The State Newspaper

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