Until the S.C. Democratic Party primary on Sat. Feb. 29, we will publish candidate responses to three questions on issues facing local voters along with a brief analysis of each from two CofC professors. For more, visit

1. What would you do now and in the future to address climate change’s impact, particularly for poor and rural residents of coastal communities?

We must rally our nation together to meet the climate crisis with the urgency it demands. This impacts not only our coasts, but also farmers, small businesses and homes across South Carolina. My administration will work toward a net-zero emissions society by 2050.

We will enact a price on carbon and use the revenue to send rebates directly to Americans. We will modernize transit through the expansion of accessible rural public transportation. My administration would ban future offshore drilling and develop an emergency response system that prioritizes minority communities when major climate events come on shore.

2. How would you deal with enduring, stark racial inequalities in places like South Carolina?

We must invest in communities of color and the institutions that promote economic mobility. It’s why I am committed to investing $50 billion dollars into our nation’s HBCUs, seven of which call South Carolina home. HBCUs have played an extraordinary role in educating Black students, developing remarkable leaders, and helping build the African-American middle class.

When Black Americans experience economic justice, we all benefit. My proposal will triple the number of entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds. My administration will award 25% of federal contracting dollars to minority businesses and inject $10 billion in funds to support entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds.

3. Why should South Carolina voters support you Feb. 29?

Like so many other veterans and their families who call South Carolina home, my personal commitment is one rooted in service. It’s why I came home to lead the turn around of a city many had written off.

In order to lead, it’s going to take a lot more than the political warfare we’ve come to accept from Washington. I will be the president to bring the country back together to get health care costs down, tackle climate change, and end gun violence. In my presidency, the American experience will be defined not by exclusion, but by belonging.

According to the experts …

Pete Buttigieg is a compelling candidate. At 38 years old, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor is the youngest Democrat in the field. He is also a Harvard graduate and studied as a Rhodes Scholar before entering the U.S. Navy Reserve and serving in Afghanistan.

Given his background and Midwestern roots, it is no surprise that Buttigieg is poised to do well in the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3. He is currently polling third in Iowa with support from 19 percent of likely voters according to the most recent Real Clear Politics (RCP) polling average. Buttigieg will almost certainly finish in the top group, with a good chance at victory in the Hawkeye State.

Buttigieg’s prospects in South Carolina look much less promising, however. According to research in our book on the South Carolina primary, a Democratic candidate’s performance in Iowa does not aid them in the Palmetto State. In fact, there is a slight negative relationship between a candidate’s performances in the two states. Outcomes in these two states have a weak connection because Democratic voters in Iowa and South Carolina are very different — South Carolina’s Democratic primary electorate is more conservative, less educated, more religious, and has a much larger black population.

Polling data support this conclusion. Buttigieg has the support of just 6 percent of South Carolina’s Democratic primary voters based on the RCP polling average. Biden has a commanding lead, at 32 percent, with Sanders and Warren at 15 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

What can Buttigieg do to improve his showing in South Carolina? He has done well in recent debates and has an opportunity to gain support in the Feb. 25 debate in Charleston. He is also one of the few candidates airing ads in South Carolina, indicating that he recognizes the importance of the state’s “First in the South” status. Perhaps most importantly, his recent ads have tried to appeal to the state’s black voters — a vitally important constituency in Democratic primaries, one Buttigieg must gain the support of over the next few weeks.

Another key for Buttigieg is to win the support from moderates. Buttigieg’s moderate platform (at least compared to Sanders and Warren) could resonate with South Carolina voters on economic issues. However, the openly gay mayor may struggle with more socially conservative Democrats.

Jordan Ragusa and Gibbs Knotts are political science professors at the College of Charleston. They recently published First in the South: Why South Carolina’s Presidential Primary Matters (USC Press, 2019).

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