Salena Zito

“As Obama might say, this is the guns-and-God crowd, fundamentalist and hostile to the Dems, though some local good old boys can win every now and then and African-American candidates can win in African-American districts,” said Rockman.

Edgefield, S.C., native Ernest Lee, a celebrated African-American artist known for his free-standing mobile art gallery, stood in front of his parked truck on U.S. 76 surrounded by his paintings of chickens.

“They call me ‘The Chicken Man,’ ” he said.

Local legend says that he gave up on Democrats after the last election.

“I say, throw them all out, from the White House on down,” Lee explains.

Standing by his remarkable, life-sized painting of rhythm-and-blues singer James Brown, Lee said it is hard to admit he is disappointed in Obama: “I want to say, they just need to give him a chance.

“But, then, I think what we need is a big change. There is too much dependency-think in Washington.”

Rockman believes such voters as Grantham and Lee likely cannot be won back, at least not by today’s Democrats.

“Obama won some southern states in 2012 by appealing to minorities … well-educated whites in the metropolises and the young, especially college kids,” he said.

How ironic that the South – home to Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, the fathers of modern Democrats – would abandon its forefathers’ party.

Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democrats favored the common man’s influence on government; both supported states rights, and strongly warned against federal intrusion into states’ affairs.

Yet Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democrats of a generation ago are today’s independent voters – another complicated problem for Obama.

Late last week, a New York Times poll showed a majority of independent voters have soured on Obama and lack a clear idea of what he hopes to accomplish if re-elected.

“I like him,” artist Lee says of Obama, “but they need to change the party at the root and start all over again.”

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.