BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) – With the cancellation of a GOP presidential primary in the Palmetto State, all eyes are on who will come out on top in the Democratic primary on Feb. 29.
Voters in New Hampshire went to the polls Tuesday night for the first-in-the-nation primary. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders came out on top with former Mayor Pete Buttigieg following close behind.
The Democratic candidates are now shifting their attention to the next primaries, including South Carolina.
First signs from a diverse electorate
South Carolina’s Democratic primary gives a glimpse into which candidate African American voters are leaning towards ahead of the November general election.
But candidates are not only targeting African American voters.
With this in mind, many candidates say it’s becoming clear they cannot secure the nomination without support from minority voters.
Shift in polling
Democratic voters in South Carolina have made it known they don’t care about who was ahead in other primaries in the first few contests.
It’s a mindset Biden is counting on to add momentum and greater support to his campaign.
Biden canceled his primary night watch party in New Hampshire and instead, flew to Columbia, South Carolina where he says the race is “just getting started.”
But recent polling from Change Research/Post and Courier show Biden’s polling numbers have been slipping in recent months. The former vice president still leads the pack of Democratic candidates with 25%, however, Sanders and businessman Tom Steyer have been making gains in the polls.
Biden remains extremely popular among black Democratic primary voters while Sanders is the top pick among white Democratic primary voters.
This is a significant drop for Biden, who led the polls with 46% in May 2019, and now only holds a 5-point lead over Sanders.
The polling in South Carolina also follows national polling trends from Quinnipiac University which shows Sanders overtaking Biden in national polls.
Local campaign hotspot: Beaufort County
Many candidates in recent weeks have been traveling to Beaufort County to meet with voters.
Of the candidates who are still in the race, representatives from the Buttigieg, Biden, Gabbard, Sanders, Steyer and Warren campaigns have been active throughout the county.
Mayra Rivera-Vazquez, the Chair of the Beaufort County Democratic Party, says the Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren campaigns have physical offices in the county.
As for who is the preferred candidate among likely primary voters, Rivera-Vazquez says that question remains unanswered.
“Probably they’ve already made the decision but they didn’t tell you who they’re going to be leaning,” she explained. “They still [are] shopping around, listening to proposals, checking the debates.”
Rivera-Vazquez says healthcare and climate change seem to be the biggest issues Democratic voters are concerned about in the county.
Voter machine updates
Following the chaos of the Iowa caucuses, the Board of Voter Registration and Elections of Beaufort County has been meeting with the public to ensure the primary election will go smoothly.
The election board has held informational sessions throughout the county for any voters who want to learn more about the new voting system.
The voting machines in South Carolina record votes electronically and on paper, allowing for a voter to review both ballots before submitting them.
According to South Carolina state law, registered voters have until 5 p.m. the night before the election to file an absentee ballot in person.
To find out more about South Carolina voter registration information, visit here.