3 things to watch for in the South Carolina Democratic primary

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President Joe Biden is expected to pick up the lion’s share of South Carolina’s 55 delegates in the state’s 2024 Democratic primary on Saturday.

But observers will analyze the results closely as Democrats gauge the president’s signs of strength or weakness as his base heads into a potential rematch in November with former President Donald Trump, with both candidates suffering from weak approval ratings.

South Carolina has proven important to Biden, reviving his 2020 bid after disappointing results in Iowa and New Hampshire. Then he and his party rewarded the state by changing the nominating calendar to put South Carolina in first place this year.

This time, he faces distant rivals who have not yet gained much interest in opinion polls or among voters.

Here are three things to watch for in the South Carolina primary.

How big is Biden’s win and who will emerge?

Biden faces opposition from little-known Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minnesota, and author Marianne Williamson, so anything less than a big win by a wide margin could worry his Democratic supporters who have already been rejected by some of the same voters he will need to win in November. .

But a strong performance could underscore the party’s unity behind the president despite his electoral problems.

However, some Democrats have cautioned against relying too heavily on turnout or the size of Biden’s expected win as a measure of his popularity — noting that this year’s primaries are not “seriously contested” between the major candidates, especially compared to Biden’s win in 2020, when several were serious contenders. They compete for nomination.

Photo: Rep. Jim Clyburn introduces President Biden, right, at the first South Carolina Democratic Party Dinner, on January 27, 2024, in Columbia, South Carolina.

Rep. Jim Clyburn introduces President Biden, right, at the first South Carolina Democratic Party Dinner, on January 27, 2024, in Columbia, South Carolina.

Meg Kennard/AP, File

Beyond the raw turnout, some Democrats said they are keeping an eye on the type of voters who go to the polls, hoping a broad swath of the party will show up for the president.

“I don’t think you can reasonably measure Biden’s success in numbers because it’s not a seriously contested race,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist in South Carolina. “So, obviously, this race is a lot different, and there’s a lot of dynamics in this race that weren’t there in the last race. So I think a win is a win, but one way or another, I think the turnout is diverse.” “This is a huge win for Biden. And when I say diversity, not just Black people, but gender diversity, geographic diversity, diversity of thought is important as well.”

A test for black voters – and Jim Clyburn

Biden’s victory in the 2020 South Carolina primary was largely driven by Black voters, who make up a large portion of the state’s electorate. Demographics are likely to be key to him again this year, and they also play a historic role in Democratic victories.

But how many black voters cast their ballots again for Biden? Some polls show Trump has increased his low support among black voters, and while Trump will not be running on Saturday, the results will give some indication about how much of the black population is still voting Democratic compared to past cycles.

Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and their campaign representatives sought to boost support among these voters through multiple trips to South Carolina, which is considered a testing ground for politicians with black voters.

Seawright said he expects Biden to perform well with Black voters, but the results could be beneficial in other ways.

“I think more than anything else, the campaign and the administration will have the opportunity to learn from the polls about the things that black voters care about, in terms of the accomplishments that this president has had,” he said.

The primary will also serve to underscore the continuing influence of Rep. Jim Clyburn, a member of House Democratic leadership who has been a big Biden supporter in the state — including an endorsement in 2020 during what was then a low moment for Biden’s campaign.

“I think he’s proven his network and his wealth when it comes to this president in particular, and just Democratic politics,” said Seawright, who is close to Clyburn.

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks at the First State of South Carolina Dinner at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, South Carolina, January 27, 2024.

President Joe Biden speaks at the First State of South Carolina Dinner at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, South Carolina, on January 27, 2024.

Jacqueline Martin/AP, File

What does it mean for Phillips and Williamson?

Meanwhile, Phillips and Williamson haven’t really scored on their own bids. Neither managed to get much interest from voters against Biden in New Hampshire, where he only emerged as a write-in candidate but won more than 63% of the vote — and now they face him in the state. More tailored to his strengths.

One of the recent polls Tracked by 538 Biden showed more than 50 points.

However, their continued campaigning represents a contrast to Biden — and a nuisance to many of his allies — as he seeks to rally the entire party behind him while Phillips says voters need a new, younger candidate to take on Trump.

Some party activists said they were keen to deliver a knockout blow to help persuade Phillips and Williamson out of the race.

“More than anything, I hope Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson … understand how urgent and important unity is moving forward after the South Carolina primary,” Seawright said.

This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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