COLUMBIA - About 150 South Carolina Democrats came to Columbia this weekend to learn to be better Democrats.
On Saturday and Sunday, Howard Dean's Democracy for America held daylong training sessions for candidates, activists and campaign operatives who want South Carolina in sync with the national party after Democrats surged in the midterm elections.
Fortunes have been poor for South Carolina Democrats, who controlled state politics 30 years ago. That control eroded in the 1980s and in 1994, when Republicans took over Congress and party switchers in the South Carolina House put the GOP in control.
In 2003, a state Senate Democrat's switch to the GOP gave Republicans control of both branches of the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction ended in the 1890s.
"What we had were a bunch of Democratic opportunists who saw a need to keep what they had - the hell with the party," State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, told the group Sunday.
In November, while the party nationally rolled to control in Congress, state Democrats couldn't even find a candidate to take on the Republican attorney general. Democrats want some of that national success to come to South Carolina.
"We've got to be in place to take advantage of the pendulum swinging back," House Minority Leader Harry Ott of St. Matthews said during lunch Sunday.
That's what Democracy for America is trying to do, executive director Tom Hughes said. Mr. Dean founded the group as he folded his 2004 presidential run.
The groups of 85 on Saturday and 62 on Sunday were attentive as Mr. Hughes walked them through the matrix of winning elections and the math and tactics that requires an aim of winning 52 percent of the vote.
It's Mr. Hughes' second swing through the state for training designed to help county-level Democrats learn "different ways of going about skinning the cat and winning the election."
Democracy for American plans to train 25,000 people nationwide before the November 2008 election and expects each of them to get 100 people to the polls. That group of 2.5 million voters is part of Mr. Hughes' math lesson.