Democrats in South Carolina are heading to the polls, where Biden is expected to achieve a primary victory

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Joe Biden’s path to the Democratic presidential nomination begins on Saturday, with South Carolina, the state that saved his faltering campaign four years ago, kicking off the party’s official primary season.

Biden is the favorite to win the South Carolina primary against relatively weak opposition: U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and Marianne Williamson, the author who ran unsuccessfully in 2020. Early voting in the state began on January 22. pm ET on Saturday.

Aside from the fundraising benefits that flow from holding the office, Biden is the favorite candidate of the South Carolina Democratic establishment, particularly Rep. James Clyburna force in Congress and a leader in the black community.

Biden won the New Hampshire primary last month, but the result is largely symbolic. In drawing up the official primary calendar, Democratic officials placed South Carolina first. New Hampshire crossed the line against the party’s wishes, and as a result, its delegates may not count in the final tally.

Biden hopes to win South Carolina by a large margin, which may infuse his candidacy with more energy and help divert attention from his candidacy. Low status In public opinion polls. He made frequent visits to South Carolina in the run-up to the election, including a stop last month in Church in Charleston A white supremacist killed nine worshipers in 2015.

Black voters represent the majority of Democratic voters in South Carolina. In his campaign speeches, Biden has highlighted his efforts to improve their lives, pointing to his administration helping historically black colleges and programs erase student loan debt.

He rarely mentions his primary opponents, focusing instead on former President Donald Trump, the front-runner to win the Republican nomination.

Speaking at a recent dinner in Colombia, Biden said: “You are the reason Donald Trump is a defeated former president. You are the reason Donald Trump is a loser. You are the reason we are going to win and beat him back.”

The gratitude between the president and South Carolina goes both ways. Biden’s 2020 campaign was on the verge of collapse before the South Carolina primary in February of that year. He lost badly in the previous two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Buoyed by Clyburn’s endorsement, he won the primary, regained momentum and began his march toward the nomination.

South Carolinians, in turn, may feel indebted to Biden for using his influence as party leader to allow the state to hold the nation’s first formal contest.

Historically, Iowa and New Hampshire have ranked first and second, respectively. But the Democratic National Committee voted last year to put South Carolina over the top, citing the state’s racial diversity in contrast to the number of white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“No other president has ever thought about bringing back Iowa and New Hampshire until this president did,” Jimmy Harrison, the Democratic National Committee chairman from South Carolina, said at a recent party in Spartanburg. “Because he saw the value that South Carolina had for him and he understands how important this state and the people in this state are to the Democratic Party.”

Reluctant to relinquish its top spot, New Hampshire held a contest last month nonetheless. Biden was not on the ballot and did not campaign in the state, but he nonetheless won a write-in vote.

A total of 55 delegates are participating in the elections on Saturday in South Carolina. Delegates will be awarded proportionately based on the result. A candidate needs approximately 2,000 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.

Biden’s support for Israel in its war with Hamas has emerged as a new weakness in his re-election bid. Some young voters, in particular, criticize Biden for sending aid to Israel while its army is bombing Gaza, killing thousands of civilians.

“He gave us a reason not to vote for him,” said Tera Albert, 19, a student at Claflin University, a historically black school in Orangeburg.

Given Biden’s alarming lead, the most interesting drama in South Carolina occurs on February 24, when Trump and Nikki Haley face off in the state’s Republican primary. Under South Carolina’s open primary system, Democrats are free to vote in the Republican primary (however, they are prohibited from voting in both).

This dynamic has fueled speculation that some Democrats may cross the border Voting in the Republican primaries For the sole purpose of helping Haley – the former governor of South Carolina – and slowing Trump’s march to the nomination.

However, there are overarching pressures at work. South Carolina Democrats want a large turnout to justify the party’s decision to push the state to the front of the line. Low turnout may reopen the debate about which state should run first in 2028 and beyond.

While he cast his ballot early last month in the state’s primary, Clyburn told election workers he hoped they would be busy all day, meaning Democratic voters would turn out strongly for Biden.

He then held a press conference and was asked by NBC News about the possibility of Democrats opting out of the Democratic primary and instead casting their ballot for Haley in the upcoming GOP contest.

“I hear about it a lot,” he said of that strategic trick. “I never supported it, and I don’t think it would ever work.”

This article originally appeared on www.cnbc.com

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