WASHINGTON -- South Carolina is a key primary state, and Democratic White House front-runners Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton competed to hire the same influential African-American consultant -- a state senator who is pastor of a 10,000-member megachurch.
Clinton's campaign made a deal, worth at least $10,000 a month, with state Sen. Darrell Jackson's firm, Sunrise Enterprises. The contract surfaced when Jackson earlier this week endorsed Clinton for president without mentioning his company would be working for her.
But e-mail exchanges obtained by this column show how the Obama campaign tried to woo Jackson, who was also negotiating with former Sen. John Edwards.
Obama and Clinton are making their first visits to South Carolina as presidential candidates. The Illinois Democrat is scheduled to stump in the state today and Saturday, while Clinton arrives Monday.
Both are crafting their Southern strategies with an eye on the Jan. 29, 2008, South Carolina primary.
E-mail exchanges between Obama campaign adviser Steve Hildebrand and Jackson's sister Andrea McCoy, who handles his correspondence, provide a rare inside look at how these kinds of deals are cut.
• 7:40 a.m. Feb. 6. Hildebrand sent an e-mail to McCoy: "Senator, I spoke with David Ploufe, Barack's campaign manager about your contract and we agree to start it on March 15. I'm looking forward to working with you. I'm very glad you are on our team."
• 6:39 p.m. Feb. 6. Hildebrand gets an e-mail from McCoy, asking for 48 hours before making a "definite commitment" to Obama. "He has received information of which I am not at liberty to discuss and is taking it into consideration."
• 9:47 a.m. Feb. 7. Hildebrand e-mails McCoy, "I know that Senator Jackson and Barack spoke last night. Barack is very concerned about this and wants to ensure that he has Senator Jackson on his team. If Darrell has a concern about the contract we proposed, we need to make sure we work out these concerns."
• 8:21 p.m. Feb. 7 Hildebrand writes, "I hope this is not problematic. I did leave the Senator a message a couple of hours ago. If there are questions he has, I hope that he will bring them to us. Barack needs his help and we take his possible support very seriously."