Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Biden 1, Everyone Else 0

South Carolina is holding two primaries this year—one for the Democrats that took place yesterday and one for the Republicans on February 24. As far as the Democratic Party is concerned, this was their first official round of voting, since there was no Iowa primary this year and New Hampshire was excluded for violating party rules. And while Joe Biden scored a big unofficial win in the Granite State, he scored a massive official win in the Palmetto State.

The last few votes remain to be counted, of course, but the AP was able to call the race just 23 minutes after polls had closed. Frankly, we are not sure why it took that long. Biden claimed 96.2% of the vote, as compared to 2.1% for Marianne Williamson and 1.7% for Dean Phillips.

We never understood the point of either Williamson's or Phillips' candidacies, and neither of them has provided an explanation that did anything to help us resolve our confusion. Now, after the first real primary, we REALLY don't understand what the point is. Maybe they will drop out, maybe they will stay in; either way they will be equally irrelevant. Biden isn't going to withdraw from the race, and there is no challenger that might knock him off or even make him sweat. Barring a health crisis, the President is your 2024 Democratic nominee. If he does falter, the replacement will be chosen by the DNC, and it certainly isn't going to be a hippie who is four decades too late or a rebel who thinks it's fun to step outside the tent and then start pissing in.

The other data point from yesterday's primary is this: The total number of votes cast, when all are counted, will end up around 130,000. By comparison, 539,263 votes were cast in the 2020 South Carolina Democratic primary. There are undoubtedly several reasons for the 75% drop in turnout:

  1. Lack of enthusiasm for Biden/desire for a different candidate
  2. Lack of enthusiasm for a non-competitive election
  3. Saving votes for the Republican primary. South Carolina is an open primary state, so people can vote in the Democratic primary, or the Republican primary, but not both.

Assuming that yesterday was typical, #2 was the most important factor, but all three mattered some. In any event, Biden and the Democrats really don't care if South Carolina primary voters mostly stay home. All they care about is that swing-state general-election voters show up. It will be a while until we know if that's going to happen.

We received a brief report from reader O.E. in Greenville, SC, who served as a poll worker yesterday, and who agrees with our explanation of the low turnout:

I was assigned to a polling place in Greer, South Carolina. (It's a small city covering a lot of land area, between Greenville and Spartanburg. BMW has a plant here.) Turnout was sparse, with only 42 people voting (plus 4 who voted absentee/early), one of whom was curbside.

Joe Biden got the vast majority at 32 votes, with 7 for Dean Phillips and 3 for Marianne Williamson.

Part of the low turnout could be disagreement and disappointment with Biden, part could be lack of interest, part may be Democrats seeking to back Nikki Haley.

It did go smoothly, with few to no problems. While politics was kept out most of the time, I could tell some of the poll workers leaned Republican—but we're not the fire-eating type. (Some liked Robert F. Kennedy Jr.)

Thanks, O.E.! Next up is Nevada, on Tuesday and Thursday of this week. Maybe one of the two non-Biden Democrats can break 3%. Or maybe one of them can win $1 million on the slot machines. Either possibility seems about equally likely. (Z)

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