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Biden’s South Carolina Result Quells Concerns About Black Vote

(Bloomberg) -- The first contest of 2024 with Joe Biden’s name on the ballot gave Democrats some tentative signs of strength among the Black voters crucial to his reelection campaign.

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South Carolina gave Biden more than 96% of the vote against token competition Saturday, in the first official primary under new party rules giving the Biden-friendly state a bigger voice in Democratic presidential nominations. About half of the state’s Democratic voters are Black, a demographic group that Biden called “the backbone of the Democratic Party.”

Among early voters — the only results for which a racial breakdown was available — 76% of those voting in the primary were Black, said Jay Parmley, executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party. That’s 13% higher than 2020.

“I think the narrative nationally is ambivalence among Black voters. We have not seen that here. There no evidence of it,” Parmley said.

Read more: Biden Racks Up Easy Win in South Carolina Democratic Primary

Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, a key Biden ally whose endorsement helped Biden turn around his campaign in 2020, pointed to Orangeburg County. It’s a county that’s 60% Black and home to two historically black universities. Turnout was at 11.3% — the second-highest in the state — and Biden won with almost 98% of the vote.

In Orangeburg’s most predominantly African American precincts, turnout — and Biden’s winning percentage — was even higher.

“That demonstrates to me what I have been saying all the time, that Joe Biden has not lost any support among African Americans,” Clyburn said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “Now, you can go out and talk to 10 people, publish the comments of one, and maybe give off a different thought. But he has not lost support among African Americans.”

Black voters were key to Biden’s victory in 2020, but former President Donald Trump’s campaign has tried to exploit polls that show those voters souring on Biden over the economy.

Read more: Trump Sees Path to Victory as Black Voters Turn Away From Biden

Biden’s most vocal opponent — US Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota — came in third place despite his calls for Biden to “pass the torch” to a younger generation.

“Yes, it was a whooping,” Phillips told MSNBC on Sunday. “But my goodness, people are apathetic, they’re staying home. They don’t care. We got to wake people up. I’m trying to inspire a party right now.”

More than 130,000 voters turned out on Saturday. That’s low compared to 2020, when South Carolina gave Biden a critical first win after disappointing results in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

But Biden faced only token competition Saturday compared to the 11 opponents he faced four years ago. The last time an incumbent Democrat ran for reelection in 2012, the state canceled its presidential primary as President Barack Obama was unopposed.

South Carolina has an open primary, allowing any voter to participate in either party’s election. Voters who participated in the Democratic primary Saturday will be ineligible to vote in the Republican primary Feb. 24.

So the turnout numbers were also being closely watched on the Republican side, where former Governor Nikki Haley needs high turnout from independent voters in her challenge to Trump. Haley now trails the former president by 27 percentage points, according to the RealClearPolitics average of South Carolina Republican primary polls.

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