COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Monday, Iowa voters cast the first votes of the 2020 election. Instead, caucus day ended with no winner, no official results and many questions about what happened.
However, at the end of the month democratic presidential candidates will face their first test in the south.
South Carolina is more diverse, larger and has a different way of voting than Iowa, but there are still lessons both states can learn from the other.
“This is the starting gate, so it's really important that people start well,” said Gray TV Chief Political Analyst Greta Van Susteren. However, Van Susteren added, “Just because they start well doesn't mean they will win in the end.”
Van Susteren said she is finding many Iowa Democrats, like those in South Carolina, are preoccupied with choosing a candidate who can defeat President Donald Trump in November.
Over the weekend, the Democratic hopefuls centered their closing arguments in Iowa on just that point. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren told a crowd, “We all have one goal, and we better come together to meet that goal: We are going to beat Donald Trump!" Former Vice President Joe Biden said he wants to give Mr. Trump a nickname, “Former President.” And, Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg told crowds he wants to attract what he calls, “former future Republicans.”
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But in order to win the election, candidates need the support of African-American voters, according to University of South Carolina Political Science Professor Bob Oldendick, a Democratic. And in South Carolina, African-Americans make up the majority of Democratic voters.
In 2016, 61 percent of Democratic voters in South Carolina were African- American. However, in Iowa just 3 percent of 2016 Democratic caucus voters were African-American. Therefore, South Carolina is more similar to the Democratic Party, which is 39 percent non-white, according to Pew Research.
But while Iowans will have their eyes on candidates’ potential appeal in South Carolina, according to Van Susteren, South Carolinians’ votes will also be informed by what happens in Iowa.
“You have more notoriety [if you win in Iowa], and more people think you have a viable candidacy. And money does really drive this,” said Gray’s Chief Political Analyst.
And these factors can influence undecided voters in South Carolina.
In a recent Post and Courier/Change Research poll, only half of S.C. primary voters said they were sure who they’d be voting for at the end of February. And the race is getting tighter according to that poll. Biden, who was once winning the race by 31 percentage points, is now only leading by 5 in South Carolina.
Therefore, there’s a large pool of voters in South Carolina who can potentially be influenced by one of the many reactions to the Iowa Caucus. But, just because the Palmetto State isn’t the first, doesn’t mean we were not a part of voter’s considerations.
The South Carolina primary is Saturday, February 29th.