CHARLESTON, S.C. (WIS) - Hundreds of thousands of people made their way to Charleston on Tuesday to watch the Democratic candidates take the debate stage, but South Carolina voters, who will be casting their votes on Saturday, intend to watch very closely to determine who gets their vote.
The streets of Charleston were buzzing ahead of the Democratic debate with many voters saying that they haven’t made up their mind yet. The pressure was on for the candidates taking the debate stage because the debate might be the final chance for candidates to tip the scales in their direction.
“I am still undecided,” Natasha Chatman, a South Carolina voter, said. “But I’m hoping that I can hear some things tonight that will show me that individual who can lead the country in the right direction.”
While some voters said they are leaning towards Biden, who is barely holding onto a lead in South Carolina with 25% according to the latest NBC Marist poll released Monday, others felt differently.
“I’m still a little torn, but I think, like most students, I am going to vote for Bernie or Warren,” Alexia Darnell, a South Carolina voter, said.
That same poll showed Sanders is now trailing Biden by 1%, with a 4% margin of error. However, one noteworthy statistic is that 9% of voters here in the state are undecided and experts said it’s that 9% who could potentially swing one candidate to victory.
“All they are trying to do really is determine in general who they think would be most electable and that doesn’t always align nicely with perhaps the candidate they actually like the best,” Kendra Stewart, a College of Charleston political science professor, said, “and I think that’s where we are seeing the struggle.”
Many voters on Tuesday said a focus is on beating President Donald Trump, but they also want a candidate who stands for certain issues.
“I have a few including climate change, along with African Americans in the prison system, college education. It’s hard to pay tuition here, so I have a few that will lean me towards, I definitely want to see a change,” Katlyne Sierra Jater, a voter, said.
Democratic strategist Clay Middleton said he thinks the personal connection to a candidate’s beliefs will be the deciding factor.
“We also want to connect with people, but we are also keenly aware of what are you going to do for me? How are you going to help me? Not necessarily give me anything, but how are you going to help me provide for my family?” Middleton said.
While others said that while personal interest is important, electability will continue to be a factor when voters listen to the debate.
“There are still a large number of undecided voters who are really open to these candidates and who are going to listen hard to what they have to say to figure out, one, what is most appealing to them and their personal interests and, two, who is the candidate most likely to beat Donald Trump,” Stewart said.
Stewart said that voters aren’t the only ones watching for a strong performance from Biden Tuesday night, but also those who have yet to give their endorsement to a candidate and are waiting until after the debate.
“This late in the game with this many undecided voters and people just looking for one thing to tip the scale in a candidate’s favor, I think a Clyburn endorsement could have a tremendous impact,” Stewart said.
Stewart said that Congressman Jim Clyburn’s endorsement is the most important endorsement that hasn’t been given yet. She said that she expects that it will come Wednesday after the debate and said that it could be a huge tipping point for undecided voters who are torn.
Stewart also said that Clyburn has hinted that he will endorse former Vice President Joe Biden, but if he doesn’t, it could very well be the kiss of death for Biden in South Carolina.