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Biden wins South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary

President Biden walks offstage after speaking at South Carolina's First in the Nation dinner in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 27.
Jacquelyn Martin
/
AP
President Biden walks offstage after speaking at South Carolina's First in the Nation dinner in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 27.

Democrats in South Carolina are voting Saturday in what is the party's first official primary contest for 2024.

President Biden backed the push to change the party's calendar this year to put South Carolina's primary at the front of the pack, ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire. It's not a state that Democrats expect to win in the general election, but by elevating its primary, the Democratic Party is signaling the importance of Black voters — a crucial part of its base.

As the incumbent president, Biden is expected to carry the primary. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., and author Marianne Williamson are also on the ballot.

Despite skipping the unsanctioned New Hampshire primary, Biden won that race after voters wrote in his name — though the results won't count toward his official nomination at the party's convention in August.

President Biden bows his head as the Rev. Dr. Jamey O. Graham Sr. speaks at St. John Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 28.
Jacquelyn Martin / AP
/
AP
President Biden bows his head as the Rev. Dr. Jamey O. Graham Sr. speaks at St. John Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 28.

South Carolina boosted Biden's 2020 bid

In 2020, Biden turned around his struggling campaign in the state, where Black voters account for about 60% of the party's electorate.

"I wouldn't be here without the Democratic voters of South Carolina, and that's a fact," Biden said at a dinner in Columbia, S.C., last weekend.

The Biden campaign sees South Carolina as a springboard for his reelection bid and has poured resources into the state over the past month. Biden campaigned at a barbershop and spoke at a luncheon at a Black church. Vice President Harris campaigned in the state on Martin Luther King Jr. Day — and returned on Friday to speak at a historically Black college. First lady Jill Biden attended a gala for Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically Black sorority.

"We know that to be the Democratic nominee and to win the general, you need to be getting a lot of support from voters of color," said Josh Marcus-Blank, the Biden campaign's communications director for state operations. "And that's what South Carolina is all about."

President Biden greets patrons and staff at the Regal Lounge barbershop and spa in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 27.
Jacquelyn Martin / AP
/
AP
President Biden greets patrons and staff at the Regal Lounge barbershop and spa in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 27.

Polls have shown Biden has been lagging in approval ratings with younger voters and nonwhite voters, so analysts will be paying close attention to turnout as a signal of whether Biden's message is resonating.

But Terrance Woodbury of HIT Strategies, a group that researches Black voter attitudes, cautioned against overanalyzing the results of this primary — a contest that likely will mainly attract party faithful, rather than the broader group of Black voters that Biden needs to win in battleground states like Georgia and North Carolina.

"The voters that Democrats need to mobilize in the general election aren't participating in the primary election," Woodbury told NPR.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.