COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Senator Elizabeth Warren stepped on to the debate stage Tuesday night as the leader in recent national polls and her fellow Democrats treated her that way.
But, in South Carolina, the Massachusetts senator is still behind. An average of polling in the Palmetto State has Warren 25 percentage points behind former Vice President Joe Biden. However, in a recent poll conducted by CBS News of all early voting states, Warren is polling six percentage points ahead of Biden.
So, why voters here aren’t in line with the national trend? One possible explanation, according to political scientists, is South Carolina Democratic voters are more moderate than national Democrats.
"Warren is introducing some new things and I am sure folks aren't quite clear as to where policy positions are thus far," said University of South Carolina political science professor Todd Shaw. "Particularly on healthcare, she is clearly to the left of Biden. So, I think there is a certain level of pragmatism that South Carolina Democratic voters are going with.”
When South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg sparred with Warren concerning paying for Medicare-for-All, Shaw said this position might harden support for more moderate candidates.
Warren’s team said as the senator is introduced to more South Carolina voters and as they continue to build up a presence in the state, they will like her. Warren’s toughest competitor in the state has no issues with name recognition, according to Shaw.
"Biden is very much a known commodity particular with South Carolina Democratic voters," the professor said.
Biden has another advantage in South Carolina. He was the former second-in-command to a president extremely popular among Democrats.
"In some ways, South Carolina is the show me state. Convince me what you can do for me," Shaw said.
As a senator from the northeast who was only elected in 2012, many South Carolinians may not be able to point to policies she helped implement or laws she sponsored.
Many voters’ attention is also hard to capture. With a record-setting 12 candidates on the stage Tuesday night, voters said it’s tough to learn about what each candidate is proposing.
"It really does make it difficult for the average voter,” said USC political science professor Robert Oldendick.
His colleague Todd Shaw agreed.
“It’s just too darn crowded for most voters," he added.