By Beatriz Pascual Macías
Columbia, US, Feb 3 (EFE).- President Joe Biden swept the Democratic primaries in South Carolina on Saturday, beginning the party’s nomination process in a state that is important to assess the mood of African-American voters crucial for his potential November re-election bid.
With half of the ballots counted, Biden pocketed 96.4 percent of the vote, leaving his two main rivals far behind: self-help author Marianne Williamson (2 percent) and Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips (1.6 percent).
Shortly after the results were announced, Biden recalled that in 2020, it was the voters of South Carolina who proved the pundits wrong and “set us on the path to winning the presidency.”
“Now in 2024, the people of South Carolina have spoken again and I have no doubt that you have set us on the path to winning the presidency again—and making Donald Trump a loser—again,” Biden said in a press statement.
He said the stakes in the election could not be higher. “There are extreme and dangerous voices at work in the country—led by Donald Trump—who are determined to divide our nation and take us backward.”
He said the Americans had come a long way these past four years—with America now having the “strongest economy” in the world with the lowest inflation of any major economy. “Let’s keep pushing forward.”
Biden was not in South Carolina on Saturday to celebrate the victory.
However, in the last month, he has visited three churches in the black community in the state, and his campaign has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on radio and television ads to reach African-American voters.
With victory secured, Biden’s real challenge in this event is to demonstrate his ability to mobilize the party’s base, especially the African-American community, which represents 60 percent of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina.
The best way to gauge the mood in favor of Biden is through turnout results, which will be made public when the counting is complete.
In the 2020 primaries, amid the pandemic, 538,263 voters cast their ballots. However, the dynamics were different then. Biden was competing with several Democrats vying for the party’s nomination, and with more at stake, voters were more motivated to participate.
Rosalyn Shaw, in charge of a polling station in Columbia, said the turnout at the voting center was “consistent,” noting a similar trend at other booths.
Many voters at the polling center at the Eau Claire Institute told EFE that one of the main reasons for voting was the rejection of Trump, even as they expressed concerns about the economy.
Deborah Seawright, a 68-year-old African American, said the character of candidates was important to her. While praising Biden as a “family man,” she criticized Trump for “not being fair or honest” and said the US did not need a president like him.
South Carolina took the lead in the official Democratic party presidential nomination process at Biden’s initiative after he successfully advocated for a change in the primary schedule. The adjustment shifted the top spots from Iowa and New Hampshire, longstanding holders since 1972, and bestowed that honor upon the southern state.
The re-adjustment served two purposes: reaffirmed Biden’s commitment to the state, which revitalized his campaign in 2020 following disappointing results in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Additionally, it sought to incorporate a more diverse range of voices into the primary process, particularly those of the African-American community, which is crucial in South Carolina, and the Hispanic community, which will play a central role in the Nevada primaries on Tuesday.
Despite its symbolic significance, South Carolina will only contribute 55 delegates out of the nearly 2,000 required for Biden to officially secure the Democratic candidacy for the November elections. In this potential matchup, he could again face Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican candidacy.
The Republican primaries, where Trump will be vying against former US Ambassador to the UN and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, are scheduled for Feb. 24.