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?

Climate change presents an urgent threat, but also presents the chance to rebuild our economy with 100% clean energy and to create millions of good, union jobs in the process. My ideas for a Green New Deal will create an estimated 10.6 million new green jobs and help rebuild the middle class by providing family-supporting wages, career pathways, and worker protections in our new green economy. People of color, as well as lower-income communities, have often borne the brunt of climate change and other environmental harms. As president, I will fight for communities that have experienced historic disinvestment, across their range of needs: affordable housing, better infrastructure, good schools, health care access, and good jobs.

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

America long embraced policies that were designed to deliberately prevent Black Americans from building wealth — and the effects of decades of discrimination are felt and exist even today. We can’t make big structural, change unless we are willing to empower communities of color to have a seat at the decision-making table and act on their input to confront racial injustice head on. My Working Agenda for Black America highlights how each of my plans helps to address issues facing communities of color. My student debt cancellation plan will help close the wealth gap between Black and white families.

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

I grew up in Oklahoma, on the ragged edge of the middle class. When I was 12, my dad had a heart attack. We lost the family station wagon, and were an inch away from losing our home. But my mom got a minimum wage job at Sears. That job saved our home, and it saved our family. I’ve spent most of my career studying why it has become so hard for working families to get ahead. I learned that, over the years, our government and our economy worked better for a smaller and smaller slice of people at the top.

According to the experts …

After Iowa and New Hampshire, political observers begin using words like “path forward” and “momentum.” Although overused at times, these terms are important because performance in early states affects a candidate’s fundraising, media, and perception of viability.

Elizabeth Warren fell short of expectations in the first two contests and despite strong early polling and excellent debate performances, she has a difficult road to the nomination.

According to the most recent Real Clear Politics polling average, Warren is the choice of 12 percent of Democratic voters nationwide, down from 27 percent in early October. In South Carolina, she’s polling at just 9 percent, behind Biden, Sanders, and Steyer.

In our recent book on the South Carolina primary, we argue that the Palmetto State has important qualities in Democratic nomination contests. First, it is a good barometer of what happens in other southern contests on Super Tuesday. And second, South Carolina is the first contest where candidates must win the support of African American voters — a key Democratic constituency.

For these reasons, a poor performance in South Carolina on Feb. 29 could be another bad sign for Warren’s campaign.

One possible explanation for Warren’s low polling in South Carolina is her lack of high-profile endorsements. In our book, we show that endorsements are one of the keys to success in the South Carolina primary. Although Warren has secured national endorsements, including former presidential candidate Julián Castro, she lags behind a number of her rivals in key South Carolina endorsements.

For example, Joe Biden, the front-runner in South Carolina, recently secured the endorsement of former Gov. Dick Riley and former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. Mike Bloomberg, who isn’t even on the ballot in S.C., has the support of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

In the final weeks of the campaign a key endorsement or a strong debate performance could improve Warren’s standing considerably. Although victory in the “First in the South” primary seems unlikely at this point, a strong third place finish could help keep her campaign viable moving forward.

Jordan Ragusa and Gibbs Knotts are political science professors at the CofC. They recently published First in the South: Why South Carolina’s Presidential Primary Matters.

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