Biden wins first primary amid tepid turnout

Aprilia Rine

Biden wins first primary amid tepid turnout

The US president had lobbied to have South Carolina hold the Democrats’ first nominating contest

US President Joe Biden handily won the Democratic Party’s first primary in South Carolina on Saturday, sweeping the sparsely-populated field with over 95% of votes.

Thanking the state’s voters for his landslide victory in a statement on Saturday, Biden said, “I have no doubt that you have set us on the path to winning the Presidency again – and making Donald Trump a loser – again.” 

Biden’s campaign had lobbied to make South Carolina’s voters first to cast their ballots for the party’s nominating contest. Previously, Iowa inaugurated election season with the nation’s first caucuses, while New Hampshire followed with the first primary. Republicans in the state vote later this month.

The Democrat credited his 2020 victory in South Carolina with clinching that year’s nomination, trumpeting his support among black voters as critical to his success. African-Americans constitute a sizable minority in the southern state, but are vastly outnumbered in predominantly white New Hampshire and Iowa.

While Biden easily defeated his opponents, Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson, rock-bottom voter turnout suggested a lack of enthusiasm about the incumbent’s repeat candidacy, as Phillips himself observed in a statement on Saturday.

“I congratulate the president for getting the most votes tonight. But the lack of voter enthusiasm for a Trump-Biden rematch is being reflected in each and every Democratic primary result this election,” he said. “Voters are disappointed that they lack options beyond the choice between a threat to the fabric of the nation and a good man who voters want to pass the baton.” 

In 2020, over 540,000 Democrats turned out to vote in South Carolina’s presidential primary – 16.4% of registered party voters. Party officials only predicted between 100,000 and 200,000 total votes in an interview with Reuters, and about 131,000 people ultimately voted – a dismal 4% turnout.

Democratic insiders have long warned of an “enthusiasm gap” surrounding the nation’s octogenarian commander-in-chief. Polls have repeatedly indicated that even Democratic voters believe Biden is too old and frail, both mentally and physically, for a second term. 

South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement of Biden was trumpeted by the media establishment as a seal of approval from the black community, was quick to herald his victory as proof the president has “not lost any support among African-Americans” in an interview with CNN.

Biden’s approval rating among black voters has dropped to 42%, according to a recent AP-NORC, just over half of what it was when he took office in 2021.

One black South Carolina voter interviewed by MSNBC ahead of the primary blamed the economy, explaining, “We were broke with Biden; we weren’t with Trump.”

An NBC poll published Sunday placed Trump five points ahead of Biden, reversing the incumbent’s lead as measured in July by the same pollster.

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