Nicole Kearley & Joseph Kasko
(Rock Hill, S.C.) — As voters in New Hampshire prepare to vote in a primary election this week (Feb. 11) and the results of the troubled Iowa caucuses continue to be scrutinized, soon all eyes will turn to South Carolina and its “first in the South” primary.
As the Feb. 29 election approaches, former Vice President Joe Biden continues to hold a lead in South Carolina, according to Dr. Scott Huffmon, director of the Winthrop (University) Poll.
Huffmon spoke to the Palmetto Report to discuss the Winthrop Poll and the upcoming primary.
“So far, we’ve only done one and it has been a Democratic presidential primary poll. We’re hoping to do another in a few weeks, but South Carolina, unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina has Joe Biden in the lead,” said Huffmon.
The most recent Winthrop Poll, released Oct. 1, showed Biden (37 percent) leading Mass. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (17 percent) and Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders (8 percent) among likely S.C. Democratic voters.
“There is a pretty solid gap between them, but other polls that have come out since ours…showing Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders closing the gap (with Biden) a little bit, but it is still quite large,” said Huffmon.
Calif. Sen. Kamala Harris (7 percent), who has since dropped out of the race, was fourth in the Winthrop Poll and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Pete Buttigieg (4 percent) was fifth.
These numbers are comparable to polling averages reported by RealClear Politics. However, more recent polling in the state shows California billionaire Tom Steyer with growing support, as he has invested heavily on advertising in South Carolina.
“Being the first in the South we’re stunningly important for both parties,” said Huffmon. “For the Democrats, we are the first real test of how African Americans are going to turn out and who they are going to support.”
He said the state is an important bellwether, because African Americans and women make up two-thirds of South Carolina voters.
“South Carolina, again, (is) very different from both Iowa and New Hampshire. Here in South Carolina, trust is a much bigger issue. African Americans make up a disproportionate amount of the Democratic presidential primary,” said Huffmon.
“With African Americans in South Carolina, it is far more about who they trust, do they feel comfortable with the person? And because Joe Biden had Barack Obama’s back for eight years, they know him, they trust him,” he said.
“All these other folks coming out and saying, ‘well, my policy will help you” to them, they have to have someone they trust enacting policy and somebody who promises to do something.”
Huffmon said, traditionally, the state is also an important test for Republicans, however, South Carolina will not hold a GOP primary this year.
“Obviously, the Republicans do not have a primary in South Carolina this time, but for the Republicans, South Carolina is a first test of all kinds of Republicans, from evangelicals in the Upstate, to Lowcountry fiscal conservatives,” he said.
Meanwhile, the still disputed results in Iowa showed Buttigieg and Sanders nearly tied for the lead with Warren third and Biden fourth.
Polling data from New Hampshire shows Sanders with a slim lead over Buttigieg, according to RealClear Politics.