Politics Explained: Should South Carolinians care about the Nevada Caucus?

Should South Carolinians care about the Nevada Caucus?

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With all the votes in Nevada are cast, will the results impact South Carolinian’s decisions a week later?

The two states are the first tests for Democratic candidates among a diverse electorate in the race for the Presidential nomination. However, this simple fact and the states’ spot on the election calendar are one of the few similarities political experts draw between them.

In fact, South Carolina is more ethnically diverse than Nevada. According to 2016 exit polls, 13 percent of Nevada Democratic Primary voters were African American, and 19 percent were Hispanic or Latino. In comparison, 61 percent of South Carolina Democratic voters in 2016 were African American and two percent were Hispanic or Latino.

Political expert and co-author of “The First in the South: Why South Carolina’s Presidential Primary Matters” H. Gibbs Knotts said Nevada is also a more expensive state for Presidential hopefuls to campaign.

However, one of the starkest differences between the two states is how voters make their choice for their party’s potential nominee. Nevada holds caucuses like Iowa and allows people to vote early. A caucus is a style of voting where voters must gather in groups on election day at a voting location. And, if their initial choice for President doesn’t reach a certain threshold, they can choose another candidate to support.

But, while many South Carolinians think the caucus system is strange, it wasn’t too long ago that it was how they voted.

“We held caucuses during the 60s and 70s and then there was a movement particularly after the 1972 Democratic convention to try and get more people involved to actually have elections,” Knotts said.

The Republican party was the first to make the switch. According to Knotts, in 1970 they used the primary to attract new and returning voters to the GOP. Then, in 1992 the Democrats followed suit.

It was that year that Bill Clinton won the South Carolina Democratic Primary after losing Iowa and New Hampshire. He was called, “the Comeback Kid,” and eventually went on to win the nomination. Since South Carolina Democrats have picked the eventual nomination winner three out of four times. The fourth time, according to Knott’s co-author Jordan Ragusa, was John Edwards from neighboring state North Carolina.

In fact, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn wants his state to have a more prominent spot in the process than it does now.

“I’m hopeful the Democratic National Committee will run a state like South Carolina on the same day as a state like New Hampshire. It wouldn’t take anything away from New Hampshire. It would say to New Hampshire can stay number two, or to Iowa, you can stay number one. But, you’re going to have two number ones and two number twos. I don’t know why people argue with that,” Clyburn said.

But with a different electorate, style of voting, and history, there is still one main reason South Carolinians should pay attention to Nevada momentum.

In addition to increased media attention and potential donations, experts say candidates could get a polling bump from a strong performance in Nevada.

“Voter will take a second look at a candidate that maybe finishes in the top three or four,” Ragusa said.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.