Saturday's first-in-the-South primary could be a pivotal moment for many of the candidates, especially Biden, who is counting on his projected landslide win here to reinvigorate his candidacy ahead of Super Tuesday.
Also on the ballot were Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was not in the running as he decided to skip the first four nominating contests.
Highlights from the South Carolina primary
- Biden wins the South Carolina primary, while Sanders finishes second, NBC News projects.
- Billionaire Tom Steyer quits the Democratic primary race.
- 'You cannot win ‘em all': Sanders downplays loss in South Carolina.
- Buttigieg: Campaign pressing onto Super Tuesday despite South Carolina result.
- Warren campaign memo: 'We're in this race for the long haul.'
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NBC News Exit Poll: 'Medicare for All' goes four for four in primary contests so far
A proposal to replace all private insurance with a single government plan for all Americans is finding majority support among voters in all four early state Democratic presidential contests, results from the NBC News Exit Poll show.
An idea whose appeal was once limited to the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party, “Medicare for All” is favored by a majority of voters in today’s presidential primary in South Carolina, which features the most moderate Democratic electorate so far in 2020. Support for the plan in the Southern state isn’t quite as high as among Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada, where an average of six in 10 voters expressed support for it.
Democrats in Trump districts cast a nervous eye at a surging Sanders
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Few people sound more excited about the prospect of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., winning the Democratic nomination than South Carolina Republicans.
"It's the best-case scenario," said Republican state Rep. Nancy Mace, who is running for her party's nomination to challenge freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham. "Really, it's the best-case scenario for any Republican on the ballot."
South Carolina's 1st Congressional District, which covers over 100 miles of coast from north of Charleston down to Hilton Head Island, has long been a Republican stronghold. The district voted for Donald Trump by more than 13 points in 2016 and for Mitt Romney by more than 18 points in 2012.
Cunningham, 37, a former ocean engineer and Charleston-based lawyer, won the district by a slim 1.4 percentage points in 2018, becoming the first Democrat to represent the area since the 1970s.
Sanders' rise has many Democrats here worried that Cunningham's seat — the object of one of the most competitive House races in the country — would be even more vulnerable if a democratic socialist were at the top of the party's ticket in November. In conversations with down-ballot Democratic candidates and strategists here, many said they were crossing their fingers in hope that Sanders' momentum would come to a halt in South Carolina's primary this weekend.
NBC News Exit Poll: Democrats prioritize beating Trump over ideological purity
Slightly more than half of South Carolina Democrats said they prioritize beating Trump over a candidate who agrees with them on issues, early results from the NBC News Exit Poll of primary voters show.
South Carolina Democrats aren’t quite as focused on victory in November as their counterparts in the other 2020 contests held so far: In Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, more than six in 10 voters said they’re rather see a nominee who can beat Trump.
NBC News Exit Poll: South Carolina first early state contest with strong presence of African American voters
Today’s South Carolina Democratic primary features an electorate that differs sharply in many ways from the previous three early voting states in the 2020 race, early results from the NBC Exit Poll show.
More than half of those voting in South Carolina identify as African American, a share dramatically higher than in the Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada 2020 Democratic contests. Just half of voters consider themselves to be liberal; in all previous states liberals made up at least six in 10 voters. And just four in 10 South Carolina voters today hold a college degree. By contrast, college graduates were the majority of electorates in the first three contests.
NAACP president: To us, SC is beginning of primary season
Warren defends super PAC support in front of supporters
Warren on Saturday defended taking donations from a super PAC that formed ahead of the Nevada caucuses to give her campaign a boost.
The Massachusetts senator had previously criticized the use of political action committees and promised not to use them, but as her opponents continue to benefit from their own PACs, she explained that she had changed her mind.
"There's a super PAC now that's come in for me, and I get it, there are people who want to try to get women elected," Warren said at the rally in Little Rock, Arkansas, the first time she addressed the issue at such a venue. "They feel really frustrated that they haven't had an opportunity to do that. But my view on this is, we could keep super PACs out of this, but it takes everybody following the same set of rules. So as soon as everybody's ready, I'll lead the charge and we'll keep the super PACs out because I think that's the right way to do it."
The organization, Persist PAC, announced previously that it's spending $9 million in television and digital ads in multiple Super Tuesday states on Warren's behalf.
South Carolina voters with no insurance, deep medical debt swayed by health care
ORANGEBURG, S.C. — After years of hard work, Ashley Myers finally realized her dream of owning a women’s fashion store and a beauty shop directly across the street from each other in this small, predominantly black city. But as the costs of her health care plan rose a year ago, she could only keep one storefront open.
Today, as the owner and the sole employee of the combined beauty shop and fashion store, she pays $800 a month for her insurance premiums, but she said it really only helps in dire circumstances. Otherwise, she pays so much out of pocket that she feels only as well off as her uninsured brother — he only sees a doctor in the emergency room, where he racks up huge medical bills.
“I try to be smart about when I go to the doctor and make sure I have the money or else they take it away from my business,” Myers, 35, said.
For many in this city of 13,000, health care and insurance are foremost ahead of Saturday’s Democratic primary, when South Carolina voters will likely weigh the medical plans proposed by the different presidential candidates. The most radical idea of "Medicare for All" is beginning to appeal to some like Myers, who are worried about their own pocketbooks or concerned for family and friends who don't have insurance.
South Carolina Democratic Party anticipating high turnout
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson said Saturday afternoon that just under 80,000 absentee ballots were sent in for the Democratic presidential primary, outpacing both the 2016 and 2018 elections.
“In the past, absentee balloting has always been an indicator, an early indicator of what turnout is going to be in South Carolina,” Robertson said.
SCDP executive director Jay Parmley added that the party could see voter turnout approach 2008 numbers — the highest numbers seen in a primary in the state.
“If we get anywhere near that half million mark, there will have been more votes cast here today than cast in the previous three contests,” Parmley said.
Of votes cast in South Carolina, Robertson anticipates non-white voters could make up more than half of the electorate.
“We anticipate that the significant number of non-white voters will make up anywhere from 55 to 62, 63 percent of the electorate,” Robertson said.
But primary day hasn’t been without some minor issues. Robertson and Parmley confirmed some confusion over the fact that some polling locations have been consolidated and moved in accordance to S.C. law to as a cost saving measure.
“We’ve had about 132 calls to our actual system today, and primarily most of that deals with locations,” Robertson said. Parmley said that there were several consolidations made, and “two or three counties” undertook “fairly significant consolidation efforts.”
Parmley and Robertson stressed that those issues have been “routine” and not wide-ranging.
Who won the Democratic debate in South Carolina?
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Democrats threw everything they had at Bernie Sanders, and if the 10th debate here didn't slow his march to the nomination it's not clear anything will.
Mike Bloomberg told him Russia wants him to be the nominee so he can lose to President Donald Trump. Elizabeth Warren said she'd be a better president than him and took him to task for supporting the Senate filibuster. Joe Biden went after him for voting against gun control and floating a primary challenge against President Barack Obama in 2012. Pete Buttigieg said House Democrats are fleeing his agenda. Amy Klobuchar argued she was the most anti-Sanders candidate on the stage.
At one point, Sanders offered a knowing grin.
"I'm hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why?" the front-runner quipped.
Here's how the candidates performed in a debate that repeatedly descended into yelling matches rife with interruptions that captured the tension of the larger contest.