The Daily Gamecock

Four more years: SC Democrats lose battle, win war

SC Democrats lose battle, win war

Around 11:15 p.m. Tuesday night, champagne bottles popped at the headquarters of the South Carolina Democratic Party, and Dick Harpootlian, its chairman, took a drink straight from one of them.

NBC News had just projected that President Barack Obama would win the election and four more years in office. “Yes, we can” cheers rang out.

Across town, Chad Connelly walked over to Matt Moore, the executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, and said, “That’s it.”

“If that’s accurate, it really, really narrows the path for us,” said Connelly, the party’s chairman for South Carolina, at Jillian’s before walking outside.

Minutes later, the Republicans’ viewing party began to empty.

It was the end of an election measured in hours — hours of standing in line and just as many spent waiting for results.

In the end, it was Obama’s night, and it was called far earlier than many anticipated, as the president was propelled to a second term, in large part, by eking out a victory in Ohio.

At press time, with results from Florida and Alaska not yet in, the Associated Press projected that Obama would win 303 electoral votes, enough to take a majority and edge out Mitt Romney’s 203.

It appeared to be a battle won along lines drawn in 2008. Obama kept control over most of the states he won in his first election, and only Indiana and North Carolina switched to Romney’s side.

But in 2008, Obama swept through the country with a strong popular showing, taking 53 percent of the nation’s vote to Republican John McCain’s 46 percent.

This year told a different story. Early Wednesday morning, Obama and Romney were battling for the popular vote lead with margins in the tens of thousands. At press time, Obama was holding out in a squeaker, with 49.5 percent, edging out Romney’s 49 percent.

“It may be a reverse of what happened in 2000,” Moore said earlier in the night, referring to Democrat Al Gore winning the popular vote and Republican President George W. Bush winning the Electoral College.

The former co-chairwoman of the South Carolina College Republicans Federation, Sally Atwater, a 2012 Furman graduate, remembered watching that election unfold.

“I was in fifth grade watching as the results came in for Bush–Gore,” she said.

She thinks it’s ironic that Obama, who has expressed his displeasure with the Electoral College system, might be re-elected by it.

South Carolina contributed to Romney’s count in that margin, as the state favored the former Massachusetts governor by 13.4 points, with 92 percent of precincts in.

It came as little surprise in a state with a solid Republican base, but it was a wider margin than in 2008. In that election, the state supported McCain by a 10-point margin.

“I’m the only Democrat [in Congress] from South Carolina,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn. “We have nowhere to go but up.”

To cast their ballots, many South Carolina voters waited in lines that stretched on for hours, including at a number of precincts in and around Columbia, an issue Harpootlian called “inexcusable.”

With those lines in mind, Courtland Thomas felt it was a victory he and other Obama supporters had earned.

“It’s more than just a victory for Obama. It’s a victory for those who waited in line for four hours,” the second-year marketing student said. “It’s a victory for all of us.”

Thomas was one of hundreds of students who attended Student Government’s Election Night Soireé in the Russell House Ballroom, a swanky affair that included crab cakes and other hors d’oeuvres and cost SG’s election commission $1,300.

The sentiments there seemed a split decision; cheers erupted alternately as both Obama’s and Romney’s wins were announced. It marked the dichotomy, some partygoers said, of a liberal college campus in the heart of a conservative state.

At Jillian’s, the atmosphere deflated quickly — and disbelief took hold.

Marcus Finney, who worked on Romney’s campaign in his hometown of Cincinnati and again upon moving to USC, was furious as he watched the results.

“He’s the worst president we’ve had in the last 100 years,” the first-year finance student said. “The sad part is not that he’s been re-elected, but that half of the country is willing to vote for someone like that.”

Finney consoled Rachel Kats, a 2012 USC graduate, who had crouched to the ground and sobbed as Fox News projected Obama’s re-election.

She was “devastated,” she said, and struggled to put her thoughts into words.

“I can’t believe America — I just can’t believe...” she said, before her voice trailed off.

As Kats collected herself, the retail management graduate said she has struggled to find work upon graduation, a struggle she thinks will continue under another Obama administration.

She also plans to run for Congress one day, but she thinks that being Mormon will hold her back ­— and she’d hoped a Romney presidency might help her chances.

“I still think it’s an option,” she said, “but it’s going to be harder.”

Democrats like Thomas, though, rejoiced in the excitement of a second term for Obama.

“I’m glad, as someone who was unable to vote in 2008 but aligned with the things he stands for,” Thomas said. “It’s a time to celebrate.”