So I've been canvassing in Charleston for much of the day with a group of gay activists, including a retired Rear Admiral, Ellen Greene of Pushing Daisies and Daniel O'Donnell, who is Rosie's brother and a really cool representative in the New York State Assembly. They are wonderful people. It's something of an open secret that gay networks are incredibly important in politics, bringing together across all races, genders, political parties, and geographies people with a shared cultural identity who can then do business with one another.
All are strong Hillary supporters, and I went around a mixed middle class neighborhood with them in this extremely beautiful Palmetto laden city full of courtly elderly black men in three piece suits and canes, frattish college students who jello wrestle at nightclubs, and charming restaurants and cafes that are closer to genuine Parisian cafes than I've ever seen in America. I'd never been Charleston, so I didn't know what to expect, but it just feels like the place where the aristocracy live, so lovely that it is something of a national capital for weddings. While canvassing, I ran into a gay wealthyish Republican, who was deciding between Giuliani and McCain and who jokingly told me that Lindsay Graham is the President of their closeted Republican club. He gave us a ride a couple of blocks to the next street on our map, and I went along and canvassed the various extraordinarily friendly black families living there.
A smart friend I was with explained the strong attraction in the gay activist community to Clinton, even though she is probably the least progressive on gay issues of the bunch. He told me that the gender barrier is very significant, and that's why Clinton is loved on a tribal level. Obviously it differs depending on who you are, but I have not heard a more persuasive explanation for why the gay activist core is often with Clinton.
I obviously have no larger perspective, but the operation here seems somewhat low energy, much more similar to pre-election day in Iowa than Nevada. There's no sense of urgency, and I get the sense that there's an acceptance that Obama has this one in the bag. I was supposed to attend a student speech for Clinton, and the speech just didn't happen because the organizers bailed. And the Clinton literature is inferior to the Obama lit, with the Obama literature both more attractive and more useful in that it had personalized polling place stickers on it.
Say what you will about organization, it's little touches like this that do in fact matter. With no data and based on just a few conversations with low information, I get the sense that white voters here perceive a high amount of bickering between Obama and Clinton, and are using it as a reason to vote for Edwards and/or not vote. So no, it's not just the blogosphere or the news media, people are paying attention and reciting memes about electability, bickering, partisanship, etc.
And yes, that's my chocolate martini. If you'd like to see more pictures of Spanish moss and campaign lit, I put a flickr set here. I'm going to a Hillary rally tonight, so more soon.
... All 9 pollsters working South Carolina have Obama ahead by 6-20 points. If Obama loses South Carolina to Clinton, the nomination fight is over and the polling community is in some serious trouble.