A new poll of South Carolina has former vice president Joe Biden leading Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) 39%-12%-10%.
Joe Biden is strong in South Carolina
Biden currently holds 39% support among South Carolina voters who are likely to vote in the February 2020 Democratic primary. The next tier of candidates includes California Sen. Kamala Harris (12%), Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (10%), and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (9%). South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg registers 5% support. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer each earn 2%, while Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke each have 1% support.
Biden has widespread support among black voters (51%), a group that makes up more than 6-in-10 likely primary voters. His support among white voters (24%) is less than half that level. Among the top five candidates, two earn significantly higher support among white voters than black voters: Warren (21% white and 2% black) and Buttigieg (11% white and 1% black). The remaining candidates draw equal support from both groups: Harris (12% white and 12% black) and Sanders (10% white and 10% black).
Biden has slightly higher support among men (45%) than women (36%). The same is true for Harris (16% men and 9% women). However, women (23%) are much more likely than men (7%) to say they have no candidate preference at this stage of the race.
Biden also does significantly better among moderate to conservative voters (48%) than he does among self-described liberals (27%). This finding, though, correlates with the fact that black voters (76%) in South Carolina are more likely than white voters (43%) to see themselves more as centrists.
Kamala Harris hasn’t broken through in South Carolina
The Harris campaign has been organizing and working for months in South Carolina as they hope to cut in Biden’s support with African-American voters. It appears that Harris’ momentum has cooled just in time for the second Democratic debate next week in Detroit. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has seen her support fall in South Carolina from 17%-9%. Warren has also fallen into fourth place behind Biden, Harris, and Sanders.
Biden and Warren are the two candidates with the deepest organizations in South Carolina, but both Harris and Sanders have spent a great deal of time in the state.
African-Americans make up 60% of the primary vote in South Carolina, so expect Harris to continue to press Biden in the second debate with an eye toward wooing those voters.
Joe Biden looks untouchable in South Carolina. There is a possibility that Biden wins Iowa and New Hampshire, his campaign could get on a roll and end the primary early. Not since the 2008 primary have the early states had so much on the line, but it looks like Joe Biden has built a solid firewall in South Carolina.
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Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association