US: President Biden wins first Democratic primary in South Carolina

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WASHINGTON, DC: US President Joe Biden won the South Carolina primary on Saturday, giving him the kind of emphatic result he no doubt envisioned when he made the state the first contest on the Democrat’s presidential nominating calendar, The New York Times reported.

The leading US daily reported that Biden won an overwhelming majority of South Carolina Democrats, more than 96 per cent with 80 per cent of the vote counted, dominating every county with more than 95 per cent of the vote, including in heavily Black areas.

President Biden vowed that South Carolina would once again send him to the White House.

“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 president said in a statement released by his campaign.

His campaign had wanted South Carolina to prove that the party’s base, particularly Black voters, remained devoted to Biden and would turn out for him in large numbers. The state’s open primary system means voters are free to choose which primary to vote in, and the stakes are far higher in the Republican contest pitting Trump against Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor— and there had been some concern from party officials about voters waiting to participate in that contest on February 24 instead.

The New York Times reported that the Black voters are critical to Biden’s success in battleground states, but transposing South Carolina’s results in February to November voting in Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia is a tricky proposition, given that Saturday’s primary was viewed by most observers— correctly, as it turned out —as noncompetitive.

The primary was on pace to have about 150,000 votes, at the low end of the primary eve projection from Representative James E. Clyburn, Biden’s most important South Carolina surrogate whose 2020 endorsement helped propel him to the nomination that year. The Biden campaign itself studiously avoided making public predictions about how many Democrats would vote in Saturday’s primary.

There is little data to measure Saturday’s Democratic turnout.

The last time an incumbent Democratic president sought re-election, in 2012, President Barack Obama went unchallenged in South Carolina and the state did not hold a primary.

Four years later, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defeated Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the state’s primary, 370,864 people voted. In 2020, with no competitive Republican primary and 12 Democrats on the ballot, 536,949 people voted.

The South Carolina Democratic Party said early vote data showed that the share of Black voters in the electorate was 13 per cent higher than in 2020, when people of colour made up about half of the voters in the Democratic primary and there was no Republican primary to siphon off voters, The New York Times reported.

In 2016, the last year in which both parties held presidential primaries in South Carolina, voters of colour made up two-thirds of Democratic primary voters.

Christale Spain, the chair of South Carolina’s Democratic Party, spearheaded much of the state party’s organizing operation. Late Saturday, she said she felt “very encouraged” by the state’s early vote numbers, which showed that more than 51,000 voters cast early Democratic primary ballots. She also added a caveat about voters’ excitement for Biden.

“We might not see that enthusiasm, but they are mission-driven,” she said of South Carolina’s Democrats. “They know that this is a choice between progress and regression and freedom and anti-freedom.”

By moving South Carolina from the party’s fourth contest to its first, Biden elevated the influence of Black voters in choosing the Democratic nominee and insulated himself from potential primary challengers in a state that saved his 2020 campaign and propelled him to the White House. (ANI)

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