S.C. Democrats 'welcome' GOP candidates

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., talks about job growth under President Barack Obama Wednesday morning in the Statehouse, just before Republican presidential candidates are set to crisscross the state. He is joined by other Democratic state lawmakers. Robert Behre/postandcourier.com

Robert Behre

COLUMBIA – As Republican presidential hopefuls descend upon South Carolina this week, several of the state’s leading Democrats today touted the nation’s job growth under President Barack Obama.

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and several Democratic lawmakers gathered in the Statehouse next to a chart showing 2.1 million jobs lost during President George Bush’s last year in office but at least some job growth in most months since then.

“We have come too far to turn back now,” Clyburn said.

Clyburn’s political opposite, U.S. Rep. Tim Scott,R-S.C., has said jobs will be the No. 1 issue in the state’s Jan. 21 GOP primary, and this morning’s Democrats’ gathering was a chance for them to connect with independent voters to trumpet their take on this important issue.

Clyburn called other issues, such as the state’s immigration law and the Boeing dispute with the National Labor Relations Board “distractions.”

None of the Democrats took issue with the notion that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – who won both Iowa and New Hampshire –would be Obama’s strongest opponent this fall.

But state Sen. John Land, D-Manning, said he was glad Romney is coming to the state now as a politician, not as a businessman. Land referred to Bain Capital, Romney’s former company, buying and then closing Holson Burns Group in Gaffney about 20 years ago.

“When he came as a businessman, 150 families in Gaffney went on food stamps and unemployment because he killed 150 jobs,” Land said. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a GOP contender, also has jabbed at Romney here because of that move, according to The Rock Hill Herald.

Clyburn is scheduled to participate in a home ownership rally tomorrow with former Speaker Newt Gingrich, but Clyburn committed before he knew which, if any GOP candidates also would show up there. Gingrich became Speaker of the House shortly after Clyburn was elected to Congress.

“I know Newt very well,” Clyburn said. “I’m hopeful our paths will not cross tomorrow.”

Clyburn disagreed with those who have characterized this Republican presidential field as weak.

“There’s nothing weak about this field,” he said. “I think they have real good candidates with real bad philosophies.”

There is no voter registration by party in South Carolina, so Democrats could cast ballots in the GOP primary, but state Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, said he didn’t expect much of that at all.

Any Democrat who votes in the Republican primary will be ineligible to serve as a delegate to the Democratic state and national conventions.