March 1, 2020
Joe Biden roared to a stampeding 28-point victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday night, igniting a presidential campaign that had been on life support with three poor or distant finishes (Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada). The conventional wisdom, in the corporate news media pundit class and among Biden staff and supporters was that the former vice president had to (and was supposed to) win South Carolina. He did just that, emphatically, with 48.8 percent of the vote.
Despite the victory some material revelations went unreported in the cable television news media celebrating Biden’s win: 51 precincts in Greenville, the most populous county in South Carolina, were closed without notice to voters. (A tweet sent out by the SC Democratic Party during voting read in part: “Heads up voters, some precinct locations have changed. Please check your polling location before you vote!”)
All in all, at least 131 voting precincts across the state were closed by South Carolina officials without notice to the voters. The voter turnout for yesterday’s primary, according to the South Carolina Election Commission, was just 16 percent, with 97.83 percent (45 of 46 precincts reporting as of March 1 at 12:16pm Eastern US time.)
Bernie Sanders finished a distant second (19.9 percent), the first time he has not won a primary or caucus outright or by popular vote. The Sanders campaign (whose South Carolina offices are in Greenville) had low expectations for South Carolina having spent little money there. The Vermont senator made only three or four appearances there this year, though in 2019 he made a number of appearances in the Palmetto State.
Tom Steyer came in third (just under 12 percent of the vote) and within an hour announced he was suspending his campaign. Steyer had staked as much as Biden on South Carolina and tried to make inroads in the Black community there.
Black voters in South Carolina, a specific and conservative Southern state, tend to vote more conservatively and have deeper identification with or ties to Establishment Democrats there. House Democratic Whip James Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden was viewed by some voters as a major impetus to vote for Biden, whose policies and history with Black people overall hasn’t been especially good. Biden had argued against busing in the 1970s. Senator Kamala Harris raised this directly with Biden in the first debate last year. Biden had prevented witnesses from testifying in favor of Anita Hill during the 1991 Thomas-Hill hearings.
Pete Buttigieg followed with a fourth place finish — and has now dropped out of the race with Super Tuesday around the corner. Senator Elizabeth Warren finished a disappointing fifth.
March 1, 2020