POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

President Biden wins South Carolina’s Democratic primary as he gears up for his reelection bid

Feb 3, 2024, 7:00 PM | Updated: Feb 5, 2024, 11:31 am

President Joe Biden, left, waits to speak as first lady Jill Biden looks on at the Biden campaign h...

President Joe Biden, left, waits to speak as first lady Jill Biden looks on at the Biden campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Del., Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — President Joe Biden easily won South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Saturday, clinching a state he pushed to lead off his party’s nominating process after it revived his then-struggling White House bid four years ago.

Biden defeated the other long-shot Democrats on South Carolina’s ballot, including Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson. His reelection campaign invested heavily in driving up turnout in what it saw as a test drive of its efforts to mobilize Black voters, a key Democratic bloc central to Biden’s chances in a likely November rematch against former President Donald Trump.

“In 2020, it was the voters of South Carolina who proved the pundits wrong, breathed new life into our campaign, and set us on the path to winning the presidency,” Biden said in a statement. “Now in 2024, the people of South Carolina have spoken again and I have no doubt that you have set us on the path to winning the Presidency again — and making Donald Trump a loser — again.”

The Associated Press declared Biden the winner at 7:23 p.m. based on an analysis of initial vote results showing him with a decisive lead in key locations throughout the state. He won all 55 of the state’s Democratic delegates.

The victory comes following the president leading a Democratic National Committee effort to have South Carolina go first in the party’s primary, citing the state’s more racially diverse population compared to the traditional first-in-the-nation states of Iowa and New Hampshire, which are overwhelmingly white.

South Carolina is reliably Republican, but 26% of its residents are Black. In the 2020 general election, Black voters made up 11% of the national electorate, and 9 in 10 of them supported Biden, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of that election’s voters.

Biden pushed for a revamped primary calendar that will see Nevada go second, holding its primary on Tuesday. The new order also moves the Democratic primary in Michigan, a large and diverse swing state, to Feb. 27, before the expansive field of states voting on March 5, known as Super Tuesday.

New Hampshire rejected the DNC’s plan and held a leadoff primary last month anyway. Biden didn’t campaign and his name wasn’t on the ballot, but still won by a sizable margin after supporters mounted a write-in campaign on his behalf.

South Carolina, where Biden has long held deep relationships with supporters and donors, also played a pivotal role in his 2020 campaign, where a big win revived a flagging effort in other early-voting states and propelled him to the nomination.

Biden was aided by longtime South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn whose 2020 endorsement served as a long-awaited signal to the state’s Black voters that Biden would be the right candidate to advocate for their interests. Clyburn remains a close Biden ally and said Saturday night that he believed New Hampshire’s delegates should be seated at the party’s convention this summer and that Democrats should avoid any further infighting.

Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman and Asian American to serve in the role, have consistently thanked South Carolina’s Democrats for their support. Biden was traveling this weekend in California and Nevada but called into a series of Black radio stations across South Carolina and told WWDM in Sumter, “The only reason I’m talking to you today as president of the United States of America is because of South Carolina. That is not hyperbole. That’s a fact.”

Campaigning in the state last week, the president said South Carolina was “the reason Donald Trump is a loser. And you’re the reason we’re going to win and beat him again,” framing the likely general election matchup with the GOP’s current front-runner.

Earlier in the day, Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison said, “We all know that we, because of the color of this, we, our great grandparents, our grandparents, could not always vote here.” Harrison is a South Carolina native who is Black.

“For this president to say, ‘Jaime, for the entirety of your life, we have started this process in Iowa and New Hampshire, and now, we’re going to start it in South Carolina’ — no other president before ever decided to touch that issue,” he added. “But Joe Biden did, and I will always be grateful to the president for giving us a chance, for seeing us, and understanding how much we matter.”

Black voters interviewed during the recent early voting period listed a range of reasons for supporting Biden, from his administration’s defense of abortion rights to appointing Black jurists and other minorities to the federal courts. Some echoed Biden’s warnings that Trump would threaten democracy as he continues to push lies that the 2020 vote was stolen.

“We can’t live with a leader that will make this into a dictatorship. We can’t live in a place that is not a democracy. That will be a fall for America,” said LaJoia Broughton, a 42-year-old small business owner in Columbia. “So my vote is with Biden. It has been with Biden and will continue to be with Biden.”

Some voters said they were concerned about the 81-year-old Biden’s age, as many Americans have said they are in public polling. Trump is 77. Both men have had a series of public flubs that have fueled skepticism about their readiness.

“They’re as old as I am and to have these two guys be the only choices, that’s kind of difficult,” said Charles Trower, a 77-year-old from Blythewood, South Carolina. “But I would much rather have President Biden than even consider the other guy.”

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President Biden wins South Carolina’s Democratic primary as he gears up for his reelection bid