When it comes to presidential politics, South Carolina is not turning blue any time soon. A recent poll commissioned by the South Carolina Democratic Party and conducted by the Feldman Group, showed Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump in a dead heat in South Carolina, with close to 39 percent each. Significantly, the conducted poll only added a sample size of 600 participants.
Still, in a state which has gone for the Republican presidential candidate in every election since 1976, the poll offered some reason for encouragement. Several national polls show North Carolina and Georgia as possible swing states, despite the historic tendency of Republicans to carry the South in past presidential elections. If there is even a faint hope that South Carolina could be in play as a possible state for Clinton to carry, it could force Trump to spend time and resources here that he would otherwise spend in battleground states.
Democrats in South Carolina are in the same boat that Republicans are in California — perpetually being on the losing end of national elections. California has two Democratic senators, and the two senators on the ballot to replace retiring Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer from California are also both Democrats. In South Carolina, the state hasn’t elected a Democratic U.S. Senator since Ernest Hollings was re-elected to his last term in 1998.
Democratic votes surged during the primaries for Obama’s historic candidacy. When he first ran in 2008, the South Carolina numbers from that year showed that more Democrats voted in the Democratic primary than the Republicans did in the Republican primary. Amazingly, approximately 532,000 voters participated in the state Democratic primaries, while only 445,000 participated in the Republican primaries. If only those South Carolina voters showed up to vote on Election Day, then Barack Obama could have defeated John McCain in South Carolina that year for president. Of course, that did not occur, and McCain defeated Obama that year, 1,034,896 to 862,449.
In this year’s primary, the turnout was very different than 2008 as approximately 370,000 voters participated in the SC Democratic primary as opposed to the 738,000 who voted in the SC Republican primary. Using those numbers as a guide, if Democrats truly want to turn South Carolina blue, they have a numbers problem. There seems to be much less enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton this year as there was for Obama in 2008, and this year South Carolina Republicans voted in large numbers for Donald Trump, their eventual nominee.
This year, the hope for Democrats nationally is that Trump will not garner the full breadth of Republican voter support that he would if the Republican establishment were fully behind him. Polls show that Republicans are divided on Trump’s candidacy, and it is notable that several former standard bearers such as George W. Bush and Mitt Romney have failed to endorse him. While Democratic Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has endorsed Clinton as the Democratic nominee, Senator Ted Cruz and former Florida governor Jeb Bush have notably declined to support Trump. This would matter more in South Carolina if Trump had not convincingly won the state.
As it stands, even with the lack of establishment support nationally, Trump’s support remains strong in this state since South Carolina Republicans have embraced his candidacy. There isn’t a chance that South Carolina will turn blue this election, but with neighboring states slowly becoming swing states, South Carolina Democrats can at least remain hopeful that one day they can put the Palmetto State in the blue column.
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