COLUMBIA, S.C. Mr. Obama has been leading rival Sen. Hillary Clinton in polls by as much as 16 percentage points over the past week. He fares particularly well among African-American voters, who make up half of all registered Democrats in the state. By a 5 to 1 margin, they said they would vote for Mr. Obama over Mrs. Clinton.
This may seem like good news for Mr. Obama, who scored a first-place finish in the Iowa caucus but finished second to Mrs. Clinton in New Hampshire and Nevada. But with expectations set so high, political pundits say the Illinois senator faces a dilemma: He will have to win by a double-digit margin in order for voters nationwide to perceive South Carolina as a real victory.
Since when is a victory not a real victory? I am beginning to strongly suspect that any win Barack gains is going to be downplayed across the board.
This struggle to meet expectations has been heightened by the Clinton campaign. For the past week, campaign officials have been publicly lowering expectations in South Carolina while reaching out to the nearly two dozen states that will hold primaries on "Super Tuesday," Feb. 5. Mrs. Clinton spent much of the week campaigning in California, Arizona, New Jersey and New York.
After days of criticizing Mrs. Clinton for ignoring the Palmetto State, the Obama campaign seemed to grasp how this expectations game was playing out. It released a memo Wednesday titled "Hillary Clinton going all out to win in South Carolina" that claims she has invested seven months of on-the-ground efforts and more than $200,000 in TV advertising in South Carolina.