South Carolina Democratic primary: live commentary

Live commentary on today’s South Carolina primary, where Joe Biden has surged back to a big poll lead.  Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.   The main general discussion thread is here.

10:49am Tuesday Overnight, Amy Klobuchar also dropped out.  She and Buttigieg will endorse Biden at a rally today.  Biden has risen in California, and is likely to easily meet the 15% threshold for statewide delegates.  The FiveThirtyEight forecast now shows a tossup between Sanders and Biden as to who wins more delegates.

10:45am Monday Pete Buttigieg has quit the presidential race.  This is likely to help Biden, as Buttigieg was one of the moderates.  Without such a crowded field, non-Sanders candidates are more likely to get over the 15% threshold in California, hurting Sanders’ delegate haul.

4:30pm With all precincts reporting, Biden wins by 48.4-19.9.  There were almost 528,000 Democratic votes cast in South Carolina.

3:11pm In the FiveThirtyEight forecast, there is a 60% chance that nobody wins a pledged delegate majority, followed by Sanders at a 28% chance and Biden 11%.  The chance of a delegate plurality is Sanders 64%, Biden 32%.

3:03pm With 96% reporting, Sanders has hit 20%, but Biden has almost 49%.  Over 500,000 votes now in SC, which makes it the largest turnout increase of any state so far, according to Nate Cohn.

2:05pm With 87% reporting, Biden leads by 28.6% in the SC popular vote.  The Green Papers has Sanders gaining two delegates for a 38-16 Biden delegate split.  If only two candidates are viable, as in SC, then half-delegates are the crucial line.  A candidate who is just over half a delegate gets the full delegate, while if they’re just under, they get no delegate.  On the latest results, Biden’s remaining vote fell below a half-delegate in one Congressional District and statewide.

Sorry if the above explanation is confusing!

1:50pm It’s a dismal showing for Buttigieg, Warren and Klobuchar.  Buttigieg has 8%, Warren 7% and Klobuchar just 3%.

1:38pm I recommend The Green Papers for tracking delegate counts.  They currently have Biden winning SC’s 54 delegates by 40-14 over Sanders.  After four states, Sanders still leads the delegate count over Biden by 58-53 with 26 for Buttigieg.  But remember only 4% have been awarded so far!

1:32pm With 69% reporting, Biden has a 105,000 popular vote lead over Sanders in SC.  That’s enough to give him the overall popular vote lead after four states have reported.  Also, Tom Steyer has dropped out of the Democratic nomination contest.

1:17pm With 57% of E-day votes in, it’s Biden 50%, Sanders 19%, Steyer 12%.

12:43pm With 27% of Election Day precincts in, Biden leads Sanders by 52-18 with 12% for Tom Steyer.

12:20pm With 9% of Election Day precincts in, it’s Biden 53%, Sanders 17%, Steyer 12%.  Sanders’ numbers are creeping up as more Election Day vote is counted.

12:12pm NY Times analyst Nate Cohn tweets that Sanders is doing much better on Election Day than postal votes in the ten precincts that have reported both.

12:09pm With 5% of election day precincts reporting, Sanders is up to 15.5%, above the 15% threshold for statewide delegates.

12:07pm Sanders had a big win in last Saturday’s Nevada caucus, but it was Biden who surged before SC.  So the big SC Biden win won’t necessarily help him on Super Tuesday.

11:52am The vote we’ve got so far is mostly postal votes.  Only five election-day precincts are in.  Sanders will hope he does better when more of the election-day vote comes in.

11:45am So far just two counties in initial results – York and Greenfield – where Sanders is above 15%.

11:33am So far, Sanders is at less than 15% in all counties reporting.  If that persists, he would be shut out of delegates.

11:25am First actual results have Biden with 70%, Tom Steyer at 14% and Sanders just 10%.

11:05am Biden CALLED the winner by CNN based on exit polls.  He has a 60-17 lead over Sanders with black voters, who made up 56% of the electorate, slightly down from 61% in 2016.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Polls in South Carolina close today at 11am AEDT.  It’s a primary, not a caucus, so it is handled by the state’s election authorities.  Shortly before the Nevada caucus, the RealClearPolitics poll average had Joe Biden’s lead over Bernie Sanders down to just three points.  But in the last week, Biden has pulled away again, and now leads Sanders by 12.5 points.  There is large variation in the Biden leads, from four points to 21 in individual polls.

Another favourable point for Biden is that in the last two contested Democratic primaries (2008 and 2016), polls in South Carolina greatly understated the victory margin for the candidate with more black support (Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton).

In national polls, Sanders has 29.5%, Biden 18.4%, Mike Bloomberg 15.5%, Elizabeth Warren 12.1%, Pete Buttigieg 10.5% and Amy Klobuchar 5.0%.  Bloomberg and Klobuchar are down on last week, while Biden is up a little.  If Biden has a big victory in South Carolina, will that boost him enough to be competitive with Sanders?

As of South Carolina, only 155 pledged delegates, or 4% of the total of 3,979, will be allocated.  The biggest day of the primaries is three days later.  On Wednesday AEDT, 14 states vote, and 1,357 delegates (34% of the total) are allocated.  The largest delegate prizes are California (415 pledged delegates) and Texas (229).  Polls close from 11am to 3pm AEDT.

Democratic delegates are awarded proportionally, but with a high 15% threshold applied at both the state and Congressional District (CD) level.  So if a candidate is just below the 15% threshold in a large state, that candidate is likely to win CD delegates from variation in their vote share.

In the RealClearPolitics Super Tuesday averages, Sanders has 32.5% in California, followed by Warren at 15.3%, Biden 12.5%, Bloomberg 10.8% and Buttigieg 9.5%.  If this occurs, it will be a BIG delegate haul for Sanders from California.  However, US polls include undecided voters, so it may not be that bad for the non-Sanders candidates. In Texas, Sanders has 26.0%, Biden 20.0%, Bloomberg 18.7% and Warren 13.3%.  Biden needs a major boost from South Carolina to stop Sanders getting a large delegate lead in three days.

One complication for Sanders is that California takes four weeks to fully count all its votes.  Votes counted after Election Day skew heavily left.  Based on Election Day counts, the media could say Sanders had a disappointing night, and this narrative could impact his chances in later March states.

The only reason that Donald Trump has a realistic chance of re-election is the good US economy.  The coronavirus-caused stock market rout last week is bad news for Trump.  If the economy falters on an issue that draws attention to the US healthcare system, Trump’s ratings are likely to fall, and his re-election chances will deteriorate.

288 comments on “South Carolina Democratic primary: live commentary”

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  1. A few days ago the 538 Primary Forecast Model had Sanders ahead roughly 1,800 to 1,100 over Biden at the end of the process with another 1,100 split over the remaining candidates (approx 4,000 elected delegates in all)

    Today the latest figures are roughly 1,600 / 1,450 / 950 although the model has not been updated for the Klobuchar dropout yet

    Tomorrow’s Super Tuesday votes are absolutely crucial now – if Sanders over-performs his polling in CA and TX he can widen the race back out again .. on the other hand if it’s Biden who over-performs he could essentially tie the forecast up

    Sanders under-performed his polling in 3 of the first 4 contests, particularly so in SC. The only exception was Nevada with a much better than forecast vote tally on the back of a very good performance with Latino voters. Of course CA and TX have large Latino populations and Sanders has a formidable ground game organised, especially in CA

    Game on

  2. “The poll claims a 1% MOE, but this seems an unlikely level of confidence for any poll”


    That’s because it’s a huge poll of over 13,000 Dem voters. Much bigger sample size than most polls.

  3. Simon Katich – I agree with you that Joe Biden is far from the ideal candidate, but in truth, none of the originally wide Democratic field struck me as the perfect candidate to take on Trump this year, and also to take the US forward into the 2020s.

    But there is one consideration this year that far outstrips all others, and that’s the need for Trump to be defeated – everything else is secondary. I think there is a real appetite among enough American voters to get rid of Trump – his bass loves him, of course, but more detest him. I actually think any of the potential candidates could probably bear him, but it could be that Biden presents the lowest risk of them all. Nobody really hates him, and that might might be all that is required this year.

  4. 538 latest forecast, sans Klobuchar, is now out

    Less than 100 delegates difference is forecast between Sanders and Biden now – 1,570 v. 1,484

  5. Firefox

    I also think Klobuchar dropped out rather than lose her own state

    You wouldn’t think voters would hold it against her would you – she’s not up for re-election till 2024 and she’s crushed it both times with 60%+, both times polling better than other Dems running statewide in MN

  6. none of the originally wide Democratic field struck me as the perfect candidate to take on Trump

    Yes. They were all very talented peeps with a lot to offer. None the Messiah (which is just as well, I wouldnt trust one).

    Very early on I thought the dream team pick against Trump would have been someone like Bullock (Steve, not Sandra… although I would vote for Sandra) and Seth Moulton. Shows how little I know – look how that went.

    The strength in a Dem candidate will be the vast range of excellent people to choose from for executive positions. There would be a bunch of moderate Republicans who would be happy to serve under Biden if one sees that as an advantage.

  7. So, it’s now looking like the Democratic race will be between one very old white man with heaps of energy and fire but a very divisive and risky platform that he refuses to moderate, and another very old white man who is pretty “safe” policy-wise but is looking increasingly tired and out-of-touch, and has an unfortunate tendency to say really stupid shit. Unless, of course, they are bested by the wild card – the third very old white man, who has heaps of campaign cash and centrist cred, even more skeletons in his closet, completely fails to impress when not delivering scripted performances to camera, and generally just doesn’t seem like he’s quite coping with the transition back from elderly retiree to political candidate. How did we end up at this point?

    On the upside, I think the chances of a contested convention just got seriously reduced, so that’s something, I guess.

  8. has an unfortunate tendency to say really stupid shit

    The US voting public have shown us this matters not a twittle or a twattle. The unending focus on slip ups and gotchas shirley needs a rethink by lefties.

    And no, I am not just saying that because of what happened to Klobuchar.

    Maybe a tlittle.

  9. Buttigeig and Klobuchar are apparently going to appear together and endorse Biden, just incase anyone didn’t get the message about how much they love establishment while they were still in the race.

  10. Oh dear!

    Biden’s stands on abortion remain a mystery after Hyde flap

    Joe Biden’s recent flip on federal funding for abortions has activists on both sides wondering: What does he believe now when it comes to reproductive rights?

    For decades, the former vice president opposed late-term and so-called partial birth abortions, lamenting that one ban enacted in the 1990s did not go far enough. He supported Republican presidents’ prohibitions on funding for groups that promote abortions overseas, and backed legislation that would have allowed states to overturn Roe v. Wade. He even fought unsuccessfully to widen religious groups’ exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for birth control coverage.

    Now Biden is competing in a Democratic primary against a throng of rivals who are rolling out detailed proposals to protect and expand abortion rights — an issue the candidates will have to confront Saturday at a forum in South Carolina hosted by Planned Parenthood. And that means he will likely face direct questions on issues where he remains a cipher.

    Biden’s campaign declined to respond to questions about his positions on a range of reproductive rights issues, including what if any abortion curbs he still supports. He flipped positions two weeks ago on the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for almost all abortions — a provision he had supported for decades, even opposing exceptions for victims of rape or incest.

    Now, with abortion rights increasingly threatened under a conservative-majority Supreme Court, advocates on both sides of the debate want to know what Biden believes.

    “It’s one thing to say, ‘I’m against the Hyde Amendment’ or ‘I support women’s right to choose,’ but what are the proposals he would put forward as president to fix access and address barriers to abortion?” said Destiny Lopez, the co-director of the abortion rights organization All Above All. “We need to see a proactive vision for abortion access that goes beyond Roe, and if we don’t see that, I don’t know, frankly, how we can know if they actually mean what they say.”

    Abortion-rights opponents have similar questions, especially after Biden’s abrupt change of heart on Hyde.

    “It makes you wonder what else he’ll cave on,” said Maureen Ferguson, a senior fellow with the Catholic Association and former lobbyist for National Right to Life Committee. “The way he crumbled in 24 hours, it was more than disappointing. It was utterly disheartening.”

    Biden over 36 years in Congress staked out a reputation as one of the Democratic Party’s most conservative voices on abortion, frequently citing his Catholic faith.

    In public statements, interviews and recently resurfaced videos, Biden said he believed that “abortion is wrong from the moment of conception,”and said he doesn’t “view abortion as a choice and a right” but rather “always a tragedy.” He also said he did not believe that “a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”

    Biden voted for the adoption of the Hyde Amendment in the 1970s and later opposed efforts to make exemptions and fund abortions for women who were victims of rape or incest.

    He held that position until just a few weeks ago, when a progressive activist asked him on a campaign rope line in South Carolina whether he still would commit to “abolishing” Hyde’s funding ban and he replied that he would. His campaign quickly clarified that Biden still supported the amendment and had misheard the woman’s question, triggering a tempest involving lawmakers, other 2020 candidates and major progressive groups who blasted Biden for backing a policy they argue hurts low-income women.

    A day later, Biden reversed course, citing the recent wave of abortion bans in conservative states and saying that “circumstances have changed” and Hyde should be repealed.

    Tom Shakely, chief engagement officer of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, questioned whether Biden was sacrificing his principles. “It’s difficult to see how a regular American is to make sense of Mr. Biden holding one position for nearly half a century and then tossing it the minute it became politically inconvenient,” he said.

    Progressives also are skeptical.

    “It’s really about what people do when the vote is right at their feet,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told POLITICO. “I think it’s fair for a voter to look at someone’s record and say, ‘This person supported Hyde when they were actually in the position to change it.’”

  11. I’m not so sure that a 17-year-old video is going to be particularly damaging to Biden. Or at least, no more so than Sanders’ 20-year-old votes to block gun control.

  12. Gun control and abortion (beyond supporting Wade v Roe and opposing the absurd restrictions coming from the rabid right) are second order issues compared to getting competence into the WH and the psychopath out.

  13. Hugo, those comments about abortion not being a right and that women shouldn’t have control over their own bodies will go down like a lead balloon with progressives.

    Bernie has done what most politicians usually find impossible – he has admitted that that vote on gun control decades ago was a “bad vote” and he was wrong to make it, even though he was representing the will of his constituents at the time. His supporters give him credit for being honest like that. It’s one of the reasons we like him. Besides, like most attacks on Bernie, this is just something that has been recycled from 2016 and is nothing new to any of us.

  14. Klobuchar withdraws from the race and within hours Bernie shows up in her state of Minnesota for a rally in front of a massive crowd.

    Bernie made a big point of praising Buttigeig and Klobuchar and congratulating them on their campaigns. He was very gracious considering he knows they are endorsing Biden. Good for unity at the end of all this, whoever emerges.

  15. C@t
    Mrs Katich can speak Russian. Quite fluently but with limited vocab.

    I thought I once had a handle on the basics. Yet everytime I tried it on a Russian they just laughed hysterically.

    Chute Chute Ruskiya Yezick.

  16. Bernie is winning the Youtube wars lol. About 5k watching Biden’s rally on YT, about 12k watching Bernie’s on YT.

    The adults are busy getting dinner on and kids to bed.
    “But Ma! Bernie is on telly!”.

  17. Firefox reminds me of all of the Corbyn supporters here. Tell me again what states can Bernie win that Hilary didn’t (best to speak from your brain here and not your heart!). The momentum behind Biden in the past 48 hours since South Carolina hasn’t been pickled up in the polls. I reckon he easily wins 9/14 states tomorrow.

  18. Moderate. According to the latest polls Sanders beats Trump in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio and does so more than any other candidate for the Dems. He is also tied with Trump in Wisconsin where all other Dems are losing.

    Now there is a long way to go to November or even July Dem convention but you can only go on the data you have at the present time.

  19. ok – but the same data said through all of ‘16 that Clinton would beat Trump in these states.
    Older white working class Democrats, who are patriotic and liked Obama in the end didn’t take to Hilary. I can’t see them voting for Bernie – who Trump will portray as a Castro loving apologist.

  20. Early on when Trump thought Bernie was a lock on the nomination, he was referring to the ‘Communist Dems’. That was before the ‘poor Bernie, everyone’s picking on him’ phase.

  21. WA Falcon – polls of the Rust Belt states are pretty mixed. Most show Trump beating any of the Dems in Wisconsin, and most show most of the Dems winning in both Pennsylvania and Michigan. Not that it means much this far out – I wouldn’t be paying too much attention to head-to-head polls in any given state until about September. In the meantime, what the polls do tell us is that both Biden and Sanders are competitive with Trump in all of the battleground states, and I’m not so sure that either can claim a decisive advantage in that respect.

  22. Peter Brent has mixed record as a political analyst, but for what it’s worth, he thinks Biden is far more likely to get elected (because he won’t scare the horses), and so therefore is more likely to make some sort of effort by the US in fighting climate change (on the basis that any Democrat is better than any GOP President on this issue). Which I guess goes to the heart of the political dilemma for the Left – we want to be bold and far-reaching in policy, but by the same token, we want to win elections. Squaring that circle is never easy.

    A popular insult by Sanders/Corbyn/ Greens supporters on this site (and elsewhere) is to label other Lefties who aren’t fellow travellers as “centrists”, “the establishment”, “Blairites”, and other labels meant to question commitment to the cause. But actually I think a more accurate term would be “pragmatists”. My own views across a range of social and economic fields hew a fair way Left, but my practical side recognises that my views aren’t worth much if they aren’t animating a government willing to put them into practice. I would, in the end, support parties and candidates that will institute 20% of what I believe into action, over other parties that will never taste power and so I get 100% of nothing.

    None of this is meant to disparage the true believers, and personally I think that if we want to see Left-wing ideals translated into action, we need both sides of the equation working together – we need to idealists to dream, and the pragmatists to put it into action. To bring this back to the US politics theme of this thread, Sanders has done a great job putting things like climate action, the minimum wage and health care on to the agenda. It’s just that I can’t see enough people voting for him to become President, and that the most likely way for at least some of his agenda to be translated into government action is for it to be done by a more electorally palatable leader.

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