As a man not only of God but of politics, the Rev. Joe Darby is an outspoken observer of the campaign scene. Reclining in his cluttered office at Morris Brown AME Church here, he witnesses the union between the pulpit and the polls.
“Politics does come down to some degree of emotion . . . ,” says Darby, one of this state’s most prominent African American preachers, whose church is a magnet for Democratic presidential hopefuls. “The Democratic Party is just catching up to that. It’s been nauseatingly safe in recent years.”
As if from Darby’s mouth to Sen. Barack Obama’s ears, the Democratic presidential candidate from Illinois — hoping his campaign can recapture some of that old-time religious fervor — launched a three-city gospel concert series over the weekend across the state, in North Charleston, Greenwood and Columbia. Although Obama did not attend the “Embrace the Change” series in person (instead campaigning in Iowa), he was here in spirit, appearing by video screen and sending out his surrogates, such as pastor Hezekiah Walker and singer Beverly Crawford.
Obama’s campaign could certainly use reenergizing. Since he announced his intention to run for the presidency, Obama — and the powerful ebb that surrounded him wherever he woke, spoke, ate and sat — seems to have withered beneath the supernova that is the Clinton campaign. Today, the senator from New York carries with her a fortified sense of inevitability, laughing off controversies while appearing on Sunday morning shows, showing no wounds from questions about fundraising, absorbing Obama’s criticism over the weekend regarding Social Security. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Clinton leading Obama by more than 20 percent, with a lead of 13 percent among African American voters.
Those numbers mirror polling results in South Carolina, where any candidate hoping to capture this early primary state needs much of the African American vote. But Obama cannot presume such support as he tries to catch Clinton, who has been embraced by many black voters.