ORANGEBURG, S.C. – Vice President Harris, on the eve of South Carolina’s Democratic presidential nominating primary, highlighting the significance of the state’s leadoff position.
“South Carolina, you are the first primary in the nation and President Biden and I are counting on you,” Harris said at a campaign event at South Carolina State University.
“Are you ready to make your voices heard,” asked the crowd gathered Friday at the historically Black university.
South Carolina, where Black voters play an outsized role in state Democratic politics, for the first time is leading off the party’s official presidential nominating calendar.
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And much of the credit goes to President Biden, who orchestrated an upending of the Democratic National Committee’s long-running nominating calendar to place the Palmetto State first.
“If you ever doubt that the power to change America is in your hands, remember this. You proved it. You’re the reason I am president. That’s right. You’re the reason Kamala Harris is a historic vice president,” Biden emphasized last weekend as he spoke at a major South Carolina Democratic Party gathering.
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Four years ago, the then-former vice president was reeling, after a fourth place finish in the Iowa caucuses and a fifth place showing in the New Hampshire primary.
Biden rebounded with a distant second place finish to Sen. Bernie Sanders in Nevada’s caucuses, which was followed by a landslide victory in the South Carolina primary. Biden’s demolishing of the rest of the field of Democratic rivals – boosted in large part by the support of longtime Democratic Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina – rocketed Biden towards the party’s nomination and eventually the White House.
National Democrats for years knocked both Iowa and New Hampshire – which led both national parties’ nominating calendars for half a century – as unrepresentative of the party as a whole because the states have largely Caucasian populations with few major urban areas. Nevada and South Carolina, which in recent cycles voted third and fourth on the calendar, are much more diverse than either Iowa or New Hampshire.
While Republicans didn’t make major changes to their 2024 schedule, the DNC a year ago overwhelmingly approved a calendar proposed by Biden to move South Carolina to the lead position. The president and supporters of the new calendar argued that it would empower minority voters, upon whom Democrats have long relied but have at times taken for granted.
Plenty of political analysts also saw the move as a thank you by Biden to Clyburn and South Carolina for the role they played in his 2020 election.
While Iowa eventually complied with the DNC, New Hampshire adhered to a half-century-old state law that mandates their presidential primary goes first.
New Hampshire held its primary for both parties on Jan. 23, and the Democratic contest was unsanctioned by the DNC, with no delegates at stake.
Biden didn’t file to place his name on the New Hampshire primary ballot and didn’t campaign in the state. But he still won over 60% of the vote in the contest, thanks to a well-funded write-in effort by top Granite State Democrats.
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But Biden’s on the ballot in South Carolina, as are his two long-shot primary challengers, Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and Marianne Williamson, the best-selling author and spiritual adviser who’s making her second straight White House run.
Phillips, who captured nearly 20% of the vote in New Hampshire after heavily campaigning there, appears to have waved the white flag in South Carolina. Phillips last campaigned in the Palmetto State a week ago.
Biden’s expected to once again carry South Carolina by a massive margin.
“This primary is contested, but it isn’t competitive,” South Carolina Democratic Party chair Christale Spain told Fox News on Friday.”
And spotlighting the significance of going first in the calendar, she said “it means, for the first time in this country’s history, that Black voters get to have their voices heard first in the process. Not later on. That southern voters get to go first. Rural voters get to go first. So it’s a huge deal.”
Fox News’ Nick Rojas contributed to this report
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