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 charlestoncitypaper.com/threequestions
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?
While everyone is feeling the effects of climate change, in the Lowcountry you're on the frontlines. It's impacting everything from your health to your local economy to your overall quality of life. That's why my plan invests $1.7 trillion over 10 years to move our country to a 100 percent clean-energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050. My plan creates more than 10 million good-paying jobs and holds polluters directly accountable for the harm they've done. On day one of my presidency, I'll ban new offshore drilling and I'll immediately rejoin the Paris Agreement, restoring American leadership and pushing other nations to do more.
2. How would you deal with enduring, stark racial inequalities in places like South Carolina?
Rooting out hate, injustice, and racism got me into politics and remains my North Star. I'll rebuild the middle class so that this time everyone comes along. I'll triple funding for Title I schools and make universal pre-K available to all, so no child's future is determined by their parent's income or zip code. I'll ensure everyone has access to affordable health care. I'll build an inclusive economy with better access to capital for black-owned businesses. And, I'll apply Congressman Clyburn's 10-20-30 formula to ensure funding goes to communities with persistent poverty.
3. Why should South Carolina voters support you Feb. 29?
I have a deep relationship with South Carolina that goes beyond politics — it's very important to me. Character is on the ballot this election. We all know who Donald Trump is. We have to show him who we are — and what we believe in. My vision for America is based on equal opportunity for all. Treating everyone with dignity. A middle class where everyone comes along. I have a proven ability to bring people together and deliver for the middle class. At this defining moment in our nation's history, it's going to take strong leadership to restore the soul of our nation and unite the country.
According to the experts …
Sat. Feb. 29 has likely been circled on Joe Biden's calendar for a long time. It is the date of the critically important South Carolina presidential primary and the best chance for the former vice president to take control of the Democratic nomination.
Certainly there are reasons for Biden to feel good about his prospects in South Carolina. First, Biden has considerable history in the state. He and his wife Jill have vacationed at Kiawah Island for many years, and Biden has strong relationships with South Carolina's political establishment. Biden is good friends with Congressman Jim Clyburn and famously eulogized the state's two longest serving U.S. senators, Democrat Fritz Hollings and Republican Strom Thurmond.
Perhaps the most important reason for Biden's strength in South Carolina is his support from the state's African-American voters. In our book on the South Carolina primary, we demonstrate the important role African American voters play in the Democratic primary. For example, in 2016 African Americans made up over 60% of primary voters and 86% of black voters cast ballots for Hillary Clinton. Biden is hoping to replicate this high level of support in 2020.
Biden has enjoyed support from the state's African-American voters for a few key reasons. He served two terms as the vice president for the nation's first black president — Barack Obama. In addition, South Carolina Democrats — including black voters — tend to be more moderate and Biden is seen as one of the most moderate candidates in a crowded Democratic field. Finally, defeating Donald Trump is a high priority for South Carolina's African-American community, and Biden has been the candidate who has polled best against Trump in head-to-head contests.
Yet there is some cause for concern in the Biden camp. Although he has led in all of the roughly two dozen polls that have been taken dating back to last year, a few recent polls show Biden losing ground, with Tom Steyer and Bernie Sanders on the rise.
In the remaining weeks of the campaign Biden will need a strong showing in New Hampshire, additional statewide endorsements, and a good debate performance in Charleston on Feb. 25. Our book finds all three matter in the South Carolina primary. Should Biden close the campaign strong, we think he has an excellent shot of winning.
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.