LIVEBLOG: The South Carolina Primary

February 29, 2020
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 29: People vote in the state's primary election in Charleston on February 29, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina, United States. All recent polls suggest that former Vice Presid... CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 29: People vote in the state's primary election in Charleston on February 29, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina, United States. All recent polls suggest that former Vice President Joe Biden has a solid lead against rival Bernie Sanders. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) MORE LESS
February 29, 2020

TPM is liveblogging the South Carolina Democratic primary as the results roll in. The map below will update live. Follow along with us.

What To Expect

  • South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary day voting occurs from 7 a.m.–7 p.m. Saturday.
  • To win delegates for the Democratic National Convention, candidates need to win 15% of the statewide vote or 15% of the vote in a given congressional district (South Carolina has seven).
  • The state is the last of four early states before "Super Tuesday" in three days, when 14 states will pick their preference for the Democratic nominee.
  • Seven candidates on ballots are still in the race: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).
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TPM is liveblogging the South Carolina Democratic primary as the results roll in. The map below will update live. Follow along with us.

Notable Replies

  1. A projection on the SC Primary (will update if more polls come in).

    Projected Electorate: Black: 58%. White 38%. Other 4%

    Raw polling Average since Jan 1 (all polls): Biden 31%, Sanders 19.5%, Steyer 14.7%, Warren 8.6%, Pete 8.4%, Klobuchar 4.4%

    Average of polls over last 4 days: Biden 36%, Sanders 20.5%, Steyer 13.4%, Pete, 8.9%, Warren 7.8%, Klobuchar 4.4%.

    So the trend line is a boost for Biden, a slight drop for Steyer, and Warren/Pete trading places a bit. Bernie w/negligible change.

    So where is the Biden surge coming from? Black voters and white voters. Looking at the internals of polls that are pretty Bernie favorable (DFP, Emerson, Change) and those that are neutral, Biden is hitting into the high 40s among black voters, and has a few entries at 50%. Among white voters, Biden has moved from the teens, where he has been mired in the month of Feb against the competition of Amy, Pete, Steyer, Bloomberg, to an average of 25%, with a few data points in the upper 20s. Those trends are pretty clear. If you plug those numbers into the projected electorate you get 39% for Biden.

    The mystery is Bernie. His white support (23%) is fairly steady, but his black support is all over the map. The Bernie favorable polls have him in the low 20s, but polls like Monmouth, Starboard, Clemson have his numbers in the low to mid teens (some of this is imputed from a low top line number). In other words, there is great volatility in Bernie’s polling this week. His average across internals is 18.2% black and 23% white which gets him to 18.5%.

    Another mystery is Tom Steyer. Almost no one believes he’s going to be above the 15% threshold or get 18% of black voters, but it’s not that easy to predict how far he’ll fall. In NV, he fell from 15% to 9.1% on first alignment to under 5% on final alignment, suggesting that his support is soft and he has no ground game to get strategically placed votes (he stole Kamala Harris’ data). I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he will underperform the polling by 40% PPP is bearish on him, putting him at around 7%.

    Then there are the other candidates. We do know from the IA, NH and NV results that candidates that have bad body language tend to drop and their vote flips to others. In IA, Pete and Amy took votes from Biden and Warren. In NH, Pete and Amy again took votes from Biden and Warren. In NV, Biden took votes from Steyer and Amy. Some candidates always perform over and under the polling average.

    Here, Biden could pick up votes from Pete, Amy, Steyer and Warren as they all look non-viable and Biden looks like the only capable ‘not Bernie’ in the race.

    In short, picking the margin on this race is quite tough. If Sanders were to be under 20% among white and under 15% among black voters, he would not make the threshold and Biden would get all the delegates. If Sanders gets to 19%, Biden would net 10 delegates over Sanders and Sanders walks into Super Tuesday with a 20 delegate lead over Biden.

    My current prediction (which may be revised based on any new data that comes in) is:

    Biden 42%, Bernie 19%, Warren 7.9%, Steyer 7%, Pete 7%, Klobuchar 3%, Gabbard 3%, w/11% undecided.

    I’ll say 5% of the remaining undecided don’t vote, and the remaining 6% get allocated proportionately: That makes it Biden 44%, Bernie 22%, Warren 9%, Steyer 8%, Pete 8%, Amy 3%
    Gabbard 3%.

    That will make it a nice haul and good PR for Biden, but Bernie will still remain in the delegate lead prior to Super Tuesday.

    What would help Biden to have a big demonstration effect is to win white voters decisively to match his likely decisive advantage among black voters. That would push more center left voters to abandon Pete, Amy and move to Joe which would cause a rapid consolidation that he needs to be competitive on Super Tuesday.

    The absolute best case scenario for Biden is for Bernie and Steyer to finish below the delegate line. That seemed possible until DFP, Emerson and Change (all with a pro-Bernie slant) put him in the 20% range to lift the average to 17%. Turnout matters but it’s also about persuasion. Biden has been surging this week. Is he taking soft Bernie supporters? Is he taking Pete/Amy/Klo supporters?

    I will be looking at the Biden and Bernie share of the white/black vote but also to see if the other candidates drop a bit.

    I know that center left voters would be inclined to align behind a candidate to stop Bernie. What I’d also like to know is if there is such a thing as a ‘soft Bernie’ supporter. Are there voters that polls claim are with him that fall away after an intense week on his socialist agenda and other positions? I’d like to see the exit polls and results to see if there’s anything there, or whether he has true resiliency.

  2. New poll added to the mix. This is from a GOP pollster but the top lines are fairly close to my own projection though I don’t think Pete and Steyer will be as high.

  3. First exit polls look good for Biden. 72% are above the age of 45. 28% under. It’s a whiter electorate but it’s comprised of white moderates and fewer younger voters. Could be headed for a beat down,

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