While Bernie Sanders is gaining momentum in Iowa and New Hampshire, the nation’s first caucus and first primary state respectively, he may hit a brick wall in South Carolina. South Carolina is the third state to cast votes during the primary process, with a Democratic primary date set for February 27th.
A Pulic Policy Polling (PPP) survey released on September 9th finds Hillary Clinton dominating the race, leading Sanders 66 to 12 percent in the current Democratic field. If Joe Biden enters the contest, Clinton’s lead shrinks, but not enough to make the state competitive. With Biden in the race, Clinton polls at 54 percent to Joe Biden’s 24 percent, and Bernie Sanders’ 9 percent support.
Clinton’s strength in South Carolina’s Democratic primary, comes largely from her appeal to African-America voters. Black voters overwhelmingly approve of her as a candidate, with 78 percent holding a favorable opinion of Clinton to just 10 percent who view her negatively.
In the Democratic race, Clinton leads with black voters, garnering 59 percent support to 27 percent support for Joe Biden, and just 3 percent support for Bernie Sanders. While Sanders has not caught fire with African-American voters in the Palmetto State, it is not because they dislike him, but rather many have not formed an opinion of the Vermont Senator yet. Sanders has a 32 to 20 percent favorable rating with African-America voters, but a full 48 percent are not sure how they feel about Sanders’ candidacy.
Polls this early in a presidential contest do not hold much predictive value for what will happen in five months, but they do help highlight strengths and weaknesses that each campaign must be aware of going forward. Although Bernie Sanders has pulled into the lead in New Hampshire and he has made Iowa competitive, he is fighting a steep uphill battle in South Carolina to catch Hillary Clinton.
A lot can change between September and February, but for the moment South Carolina isn’t feeling the Bern. Instead, the state appears poised to serve as a firewall for Hillary Clinton.