Quinn believes Clinton is her own worse enemy, as she continues to weather a succession of political storms. “I have learned over the years that voters have incredible intuition about a candidates veracity,” he said. “Some candidates are so good they can fake it. Bill Clinton was that good. She’s not that good.”
Biden’s office and a spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign did not return requests for comment.
Smith, the state lawmaker, has kept in regular touch with Biden, attending his annual Christmas party in the District, among other events. Like other South Carolina pols, Smith said he grew closer to Biden because of his long-held determination to ensure he grasped the world outside the D.C. bubble.
When Smith, who is in the National Guard, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 to lead a unit near the Pakistan border, it was Biden, then the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who checked in with him. Smith said he had the then-senator’s cell phone number and was encouraged to call.
Biden told Smith he could call a general whenever he wanted but preferred to have the on-the-ground view from the troops.
It’s a trait that Hollings, Biden’s longtime colleague in the Senate, said the presidency could use.
“He’s a wonderful fella and smart and knows everybody and speaks to Mitch McConnell,” said the 93-year-old Hollings in a recent phone interview from his office in Charleston. “He knows politics and how to work a Congress. Poor Barack doesn’t.”
No one doubts that a bid against a better-funded, better-organized Clinton would be an uphill battle in South Carolina or anywhere else. Clinton supporter Bakari Sellers, a former Democratic state lawmaker, said Clinton’s personal skills have also been underestimated. The former secretary of state is doing an increasingly good job of showcasing her personal and political skills, he said.
“We want to see the campaign ‘take the reins off Hillary’ because of the fact that she does have the ability to touch people in a very unique way,” Sellers said. “I think that will happen. It’s still early. It can’t be a repeat of 2008. It has to be a campaign centered on energy… and they’re getting there and Joe Biden is going to push them to get there a lot quicker.”
Sellers, a young, African American Democratic Party leader, said neither candidate could claim closer ties to the state’s crucial black voters, who make up the majority of Democratic voters in the state.
He said Clinton knows the potential challenge Biden poses. “The people who are in the inner circle are only one phone call away,” Sellers said of Biden.
Harpootlian, the former state party chairman, said he donated $10,000 recently to the Draft Biden super PAC, which is organizing ahead of Biden’s potential announcement. He and other supporters are assembling a list of crucial Democrats in the state who they plan to recruit. Harpootlian says he’s fielded phone calls from Democrats who have expressed support for Clinton but would switch allegiances if Biden gets in the race.