12:02 GMT09 April 2020
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    The Democrats continue to seek a candidate to take on Donald Trump in November with South Carolina the first Southern state to vote. Bernie Sanders has emerged as the surprise front runner, but Joe Biden appears confident of victory and there could yet be a surprise in store.

    The South Carolina Democratic primary is usually seen as a bellwether state for the whole of the southern United States and six presidential candidates are set to contest it. Former Vice President Joe Biden has failed to come out on top in the previous four primaries but polls now suggest that he could win in South Carolina, closely followed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

    Biden has traditionally enjoyed strong support among African American voters who make up a large chunk of South Carolina’s electorate. In the last Nevada caucus he was the most popular Democratic candidate among black voters, prompting him to openly boast during the Tuesday’s night debate that he will be the one to win South Carolina.

    Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, and former Vice President Joe Biden debate in the tenth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. February 25, 2020
    © REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST
    Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, and former Vice President Joe Biden debate in the tenth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. February 25, 2020

    But the race is expected to be tight. Bernie Sanders got the largest number of non-white votes as a whole during the last caucus in Nevada, where he came out on top. So it is maybe too earlier for Joe Biden to celebrate victory just yet. 

    Could Republicans Sabotage Democratic Nomination?

    South Carolina will be the first state in 2020 to allow Republican voters to take part in the Democratic contest thanks to its “open primary” system. Only fifteen American states use this kind of method where the participants in primaries are not obliged to side with the party in order to cast their votes.

    Some suggest that this could create a situation where Republicans could vote against the most likely Democratic challengers to Donald Trump and instead promote a candidate that could never win in November. Who is best-placed to benefit from such a scenario?

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders
    © REUTERS / MIKE SEGAR
    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders

    Tom Steyer’s Media Blitz

    Billionaire Tom Steyer is not been among the favourites for the nomination. The hedge fund investor received less than 5% of county convention delegates in the last Nevada caucus (Sanders won 46.8%).

    Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and entrepreneur Tom Steyer makes a campaign stop for lunch at Palmetto Pig BBQ Restaurant in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S. February 28, 2020
    © REUTERS / MARK MAKELA
    Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and entrepreneur Tom Steyer makes a campaign stop for lunch at Palmetto Pig BBQ Restaurant in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S. February 28, 2020

    But Steyer has campaigned hard in South Carolina, launching a strong media campaign and targeting black voters. Will Steyer benefit from Republican votes? Possibly, so far the polls suggest that the philanthropist on average has less than 15% support among South Carolina voters.

    Guess Who is Not With Us Today

    Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg will skip the primary – as he did the previous three ones – appearing on the ballot for the first time only in Super Tuesday states on 3 March. Although the ex-mayor is aiming high in both Texas and California, he still has less than 20% support in both states despite his ambitious media campaign, according to polls. The recent hits he took during Tuesday debate in South Carolina did not really help to boost his image among Democratic voters.

    Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg holds a campaign rally in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., 20 February 2020.
    © REUTERS / Ed Kosmicki
    Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg holds a campaign rally in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., 20 February 2020.
    New Voting Equipment to Safeguard From… Russia?

    For the first time during this election season, South Carolina will also use new voting equipment. According to National Public Radio, the new technology is being used used as an effort to safeguard the national election system, following security concerns that arose from alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    The new voting machines will ditch the touchscreen technology and instead rely on barcodes and scanning for counting, which will hopefully prove to be more successful system than the one used in Iowa.

    Still Your President

    This year, the Republican Party is not holding a presidential primary in South Carolina but that has not prevented Donald Trump from organising a campaign rally in the state right before the Democratic primary takes place. Whatever the impact of his fiery speeches Senator Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg  and Senator Amy Klobuchar could probably do with some of Trump's self confidence - or borrow some from Joe Biden, who seems to have an inexhaustible supply.


    Tags:
    Democratic Primaries, Democratic Party, South Carolina, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, United States
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