Clinton planning S.C. stop

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at a student conference for the Clinton Global Initiative University at Arizona State University, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Tempe, Ariz. File (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton is bringing her White House kickoff tour to South Carolina, a key early primary state where turnout is expected to be heavily influenced by African-Americans.

The former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state will be here in May, her South Carolina campaign confirmed Tuesday. Details are being worked out about dates and venues.

The most likely stops would be key Democratic turnout counties, with the heaviest probability being Charleston, Columbia, Orangeburg or other sites that are part of the state’s traditional Democratic voting bloc.

South Carolina state director Clay Middleton said no area is off the table in terms of where she may stop for her first appearance in seven years.

“We’re expanding where she will go for her first visit here,” he said. “We’re making sure she is able to connect with everyday Americans as she has in the other states.”

Clinton, who announced her 2016 campaign about 10 days ago, has already visited Iowa, site of the leadoff caucus. She is in New Hampshire this week, which holds the leadoff primary in January.

The South Carolina stop also represents a return to where her 2008 presidential ambitions were dealt a major setback, after Barack Obama trounced her with a stunning ground game fed by a huge turnout among black voters and the young.

Obama carried the state with 55 percent of the vote in the multi-candidate field, while Clinton finished a distant second, with 27 percent.

Obama carried every county in the state except Horry County — home to Myrtle Beach — which went to Clinton, and Oconee County, which went to former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, a native son born in Seneca.

While Clinton is widely seen as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, the campaign is not taking for granted any aspect of what’s at stake. She has hired staff here and is far ahead of any potential challenger in terms of collecting support.

When she does come to South Carolina, Clinton is likely to follow the same format as she has elsewhere so far by hitting smaller venues. The New Hampshire stops have included a small campaign house party, a community college and a roundtable discussion with students.

Word of Clinton’s pending South Carolina visit comes as the state Democratic Party will meet this weekend in Columbia for its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Friday, and also the state party convention on Saturday.

While the gathering is expected to draw hundreds of activists to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, it also will attract several Democrats with similar White House ambitions, among them former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. Others will be represented by surrogates including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who will be there for Clinton, and David “Mudcat” Saunders for former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb.

On Friday night, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., will deliver the keynote address at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

Democratic Party leaders were quick to point out that while Republicans boast that South Carolina is their party’s first primary in the South, it will be the Democrats’ first Southern duel as well.

“As the ‘First in the South’ Primary for the Democratic Party, we are looking forward to visits from all of the potential presidential candidates, and hearing them share their vision to continue growing our nation’s economy, ending inequality of all kinds, and investing in our children’s future,” state Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement promoting the convention.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans will hold their presidential preference primaries in February 2016. Dates have not been announced.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551