COLUMBIA, S.C. — Call it the Clinton conundrum.
Would-be presidential candidates such as former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders appeal to Democratic activists for their “fire in the belly.”
Yet even liberals like Allan Jenkins who are looking for more of that progressive passion from Hillary Rodham Clinton — the only major declared Democratic candidate so far — say they are inclined to support her in the 2016 race.
“Because I think she’s electable,” Jenkins, a delegate at the South Carolina Democratic Party convention Saturday, said.
“I love fire in the belly,” said Jenkins, who owns a Greenville advertising agency. “We heard that today” from O’Malley and Sanders, who are “delivering the Democratic messages in a forceful way.”
From Clinton, who taped a video appearance, “I’d like to hear more of those kinds of words from her and see that same fire we saw here today.”
O’Malley on Saturday took advantage of Clinton’s absence to detail his liberal record as Maryland governor — increasing education spending and promoting gay rights, among other priorities. He trashed the “failed trickle-down economic theory” and called for tougher banking regulations, friendlier student loan policies, universal pre-kindergarten and an expansion of Social Security benefits.
Sanders blasted the increased concentration of wealth in America and blamed a “billionaire class” that he said has taken over politics. He called for universal health care, a massive infrastructure jobs and building program and a more progressive tax structure.
In her brief, videotaped remarks, Clinton repeated her promise to be a “champion” for the middle class, but she didn’t get into the kind of policy details that excite party loyalists who embraced the more populist pitches from other candidates.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s most high-profile Democrat, said Clinton, even as the “overwhelming favorite,” must establish a connection that goes beyond “personality.”
“She’s got them on personality,” he said of the base. “But they’re with Bernie on the issues. The rest of the candidates seem somewhere in between on that spectrum. So that’s her challenge.”