As alluded to in our 2016 SC Democratic Presidential Primary article, this race is much more reflective of the non-binary results that will be incoming in the 2020 primary in South Carolina this Saturday, February 29th. Even though our memories may fail us, John Edwards, a native of South Carolina, was competitive in this state, causing this to be a more split vote than the 2016 onslaught by Hillary Clinton.
Ironically, though, it was Clinton that did not take advantage, as she enjoyed a 30% advantage over Edwards and former President Barack Obama at one point. The momentum built by the former President coming of of his Iowa victory shows that the narrative sometimes is just as important as the advertising or political establishment.
The most important takeaway of this primary was the sheer mass of turnout in the Democratic primary. There were counties that turned out over 30% of registered voters, including Richland County, the home of Columbia and one of the most populous in the state. This participation number is interesting in that South Carolina has an open primary system, where anyone can vote.
Assuming that the majority of Republicans do not want to participate (an insignificant few may like to play spoiler), this means that a very high proportion of Democrats in the state turned out to vote. With turnout rates down 10-15% overall (down 30-40% relatively speaking) in 2016, it just goes to show that there are a lot of voters out there that can be persuaded to join the primary process. The candidate who does that can definitely reap the benefit. Whether that will be Sanders, Biden, or Steyer will be quite exciting to watch.
The map here shows a few items at play. Edwards, a native of Oconee County, was able to win plenty of votes in the Golden Corner. In Horry County, a county with a relatively low African-American population and a relatively older Democratic primary demographic from a lot of non-native retirees, Hillary Clinton was able to win. The rest of the state was dominated by Obama.
If I had to guess on Saturday, Biden squeaks out a victory; however, my spoiler pick would be Steyer due to the sheer amount of ads and time spent in the Palmetto State. Expect to see Steyer win a couple counties and expect Bernie Sanders to win some counties in the Upstate and maybe Horry.