By: Michael Bailey –
The 2014 midterm elections don’t look good for South Carolina Democrats but there is a chance they could be swept into victory not by a “Tidal Wave” but a “Tidal Wade.”
Rick Wade, former Deputy Chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Commerce and President Barack Obama’s national African-American Vote Director, set the blogosphere on fire when he gave South Carolina Democrats an early Christmas present and announced in late November 2013 his intent to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Tim Scott.
Senator Scott became South Carolina’s first African-American Senator and the first US Senator from the South since Reconstruction when South Carolina Governor and Tea Party darling, Nikki Haley appointed him to replace Senior South Carolina Senator, Jim DeMint, in December 2012. Earlier that year DeMint stepped down from his Senate Seat in order to take on a leadership role with the Heritage Foundation.
Wade’s campaign against Scott sets the stage for an historic matchup; marking the first time in South Carolina’s recent history that two African-American candidates from opposing political parties will face each other for a statewide, federal office.
Wade is currently the only candidate on the South Carolina Democratic ticket with national name recognition and the type of appeal required to sway big donors. Wade, who can be labeled as a business- friendly, moderate, Democrat with a conservative fiscal message, could be just the type of candidate able to swing both Independents and Moderate Republicans in a blood red state like South Carolina.
Wade, a business-friendly, moderate, Democrat with a conservative fiscal message, (it was worth mentioning twice); has remained connected to his community while maintaining an influential role in DC. He has garnered national name recognition, developed intimate ties to the current administration and is a veteran of the 2008 Obama ground war. His background and political leanings offer the exact traits necessary to make a democrat appealing to independents, moderates and disgruntled conservatives in the state. If South Carolina democrats had three wishes from a genie, a rabbit’s foot stuck to a four leaf clover and the ability to make their senate candidate in a back room at party headquarters, they couldn’t come up with a better candidate than Wade.
Wade’s first challenge is to win a democratic primary against Joyce Dickerson, a Richland County Councilwoman and beloved grassroots democrat who has already demonstrated her will to win by hiring a staff of talented campaign veterans to launch an aggressive campaign. Wade’s camp, on the other hand, has been virtually quiet. Currently, his only presence comes in the form of a grassroots social media movement with a Facebook fanpage that has garnered local and national attention.
Wade’s second problem will be to overcome the fact that South Carolina is a long standing red state, with republican roots that go back decades. The state has produced a who’s who of republican patriarchs including Harry Dent, the man behind Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy”; Storm Thurmond, the former SC Governor who once held the titles of oldest-serving and longest-serving senator in US history and also set the record for the longest filibuster ever by a lone senator; and Lee Atwater, the renowned republican political consultant and former chairman of the RNC recognized as the father of the modern republican strategy.
Today, the Republican Party controls the whole show in South Carolina. They hold the Governor’s mansion and all the constitutional seats, as well as both houses in the legislature. They are well-funded and well organized.
As a hardline conservative and a Tea Party favorite, Senator Scott has just over 2 million dollars on hand; and on top of all that, he knows how to run a campaign.
The third problem Wade faces is that he is considered a career politician and a Washington insider, a perception that he will have to work to overcome in order to gain support among grassroots democrats. Wade’s best approach will be to employ a strategy similar to the one he helped Obama execute in 2008. Wade will also need to heavily rely on native political operatives and South Carolina based firms who are in tune with the state’s voters, typically DC consultants don’t fare well in the Palmetto State.
Challenges aside, Wade’s name on the ticket will undoubtedly be the closest thing Democrats have to a silver bullet. His high profile with the Obama administration will be appealing to many African American voters and could motivate them to go to the polls in large numbers which could ultimately benefit democrats up and down the ticket. His demonstrated ability to simultaneously stay connected to his community and cultivate a presence in Washington should endear him to many a South Carolinians and his willingness to take a bipartisan approach to solving our most divisive challenges will make him palatable to all voters regardless of ideology.
Wade’s presence on the ballot will compliment State Senator, Vincent Sheheen, who is favored to face off against Gov. Nikki Haley for a second time. Although Sheheen lost the governor’s race to Haley in 2010, the margin was a mere 4.5 percentage points and pundits and party leaders are anticipating another close race for the Governor’s seat. With the momentum of Wade’s experience behind them and the excitement he can generate among black and white voters alike, he has what it takes to bring a whole new wave of support for the party; a “Tidal Wade” If you will. Because as the old saying goes, “A rising tide raises all ships.”