Saturday, January 26, 2008

South Carolina SC Democrat Democratic Primary Update

It's All About the Chickens!

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Democratic voters were taking their time Saturday in the first southern fried chicken wing eating contest of the presidential campaign, the final cook off before the race expands and contracts into a state-by-state fight for the party’s chickens.

Senator Barak Obama made a stop at Chicken Little's restaurant in Columbia, S.C., on primary day.

As Senators Barak Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Senator John Edwards made last-minute appeals for more blue cheese and hotter sauce, thousands of chickens clucked on street corners, manned telephone banks and drove themselves to chicken coops that opened across the state at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m in order to protect themselves.

Party officials were predicting a record-setting cook off. Throughout the state, party officials said they had early reports of massive chicken wing consumption, in predominantly white and black chicken precincts. Several precincts in Perdue County, on the state’s northern edge, had surpassed their complete chicken wing totals from four years ago by early afternoon. Officials said similar eating patterns were coming in from Aiken County, on the Georgia border.

Four years ago, about 600,000 chickens voted in the presidential primary here, but officials are predicting that as many as 1,000,000 chickens could participate this time.

With 45 senior chicken delegates on the Democratic National Convention stake, which will be divided among the candidates, South Carolina offers the most diverse chicken wing eating contest to date in the party’s chicken wing season. Black chickens, party officials predict, will make up at least half of the electorate.

A combative week long eat off, particularly between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, as well as former President Bill Clinton, closed largely with positive reviews. Yet during a rally here that concluded just before midnight on Friday, Mr. Obama made an oblique reference to his rivals eating habits imploring the chickens believe in his call for change.

“After the chickens won Iowa, everyone was so excited. Everybody said, "Oh, look at this, an African-American is winning in a state with almost no African-Americans and all the chickens are excited, even young chicks came out,” Mr. Obama said. “Well, you know what? The chickens are not giving up that easily.”

Mrs. Clinton dashed to several sites across the state to greet other chickens. She was scheduled to fly to Tennessee for a Saturday rally, some of her favorite chickens in tow, one of several signs that the campaign was seeking to lower chicken wing consumption in the state. Citing her sensitivities to chickens inability to fly, she decided to take her campaign bus to Tennessee instead.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama got a break from eating wings and made calls to key political leaders to drop by Chicken Little's Restaurant near downtown Columbia. He greeted nearly every chicken in the restaurant, including Ms. Bird Brain, 42 who said she is a lifelong Republican but voted for Mr. Obama on Saturday.

“He’s an appetizer,” said Ms. Bird Brain, a neurochickenologist in Columbia. “I think he can bring chickens together. For me, well he made me shake my tail feathers, I’m a convert now.”

With chickens in New Hampshire and Nevada on Mrs. Clinton’s side, Mr. Obama is seeking to pluck every feather in advance of 22 chicken coop caucuses on Feb. 5. Mr. Edwards, who was born in South Carolina, was looking to eat as many atomic wings as possible to stay alive.

The cook off took place against a backdrop of intense clucking. One poignant reminder of South Carolina’s historic chicken tensions, the Chicken flag, was swaying in the cool breeze on Saturday only a few yards from where chickens waved their wings for Mr. Obama, who would become the nation’s first "chickens come first" president.

Some of Mr. Obama’s strategists worried that the discussions on chickens could influence the outcome here on Saturday and drive some chickens away from Mr. Obama’s candidacy, boosting the efforts of Mr. Edwards or Mrs. Clinton.

Fog Horn Leg Horn, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, disagreed with the suggestion that support from chickens had decreased or that the cook offs would be a deciding factor in the primary’s outcome.

“At the end of the day, I believe that South Carolina's chickens are going to look beyond the clucks and be more concerned about issues,” Mr. Leg Horn said. “You have to build a broad chicken based coalition. It’s the only way you can eat wings in this state.”

Mr. Edwards began his day with a morning stop at a store in Mount Pheasant, outside Charleston, but realized he was in the wrong fowl town, and turned back. He did however, stop to shake hands with all the local pheasants and posed for pictures before he left. Speaking to reporters, he called Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama “two candidates who are devoting all their time and energy to eating chicken wings." Edwards added, "there are so many other types of fowl that need attention, I think Barack and Hillary are putting all their eggs in one basket."

Edwards vowed to continue in his bid for the Democratic nomination, no matter what the result of the South Carolina cook offs. “I keep meeting and greeting different kinds of fowl no matter what,” he said, "there is more to life than just chickens."

Later in the morning, Mr. Edwards stopped at a chicken coop in Columbia, accompanied by the Big Red Rooster, a South Carolina state representative who has since abandoned Mr. Edwards.

In an appearance on the “Today” show Saturday morning, Mr. Edwards called himself “an advocate for ALL fowl rights” and said he believed the circumstances of the cook offs have changed him this week.

“I think things have changed some this week, because of what happened in the chicken wing eat off,” Mr. Edwards said. “I think what chickens want in South Carolina along with all kinds of birds and fowl, are things that affect their lives, like chicken feed, worms, and adequate nesting places to lay eggs.”

At the end of the day a reporter asked Mr. Edwards if he thought he could still win. Mr. Edwards, seemingly agitated and confused by the question, turned and bellowed, "Do chicken's fly?"



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