South Carolina (D) Primary Preview

It’ll be Hillary Clinton. By a lot. Like, by 30.

As the polls show, there is no drama here:


We should probably throw out the Clemson poll on account of its anomalous 50-point spread, but consider that it’s only one of two South Carolina polls taken since Clinton’s Nevada victory. Those old polls from mid-February came right after Bernie Sander’s big win in in New Hampshire. Frankly, those should also be tossed out of the Real Clear Politics average, since they’re, quite literally, last week’s news. Clinton is on her way to at least 60 percent of the vote today; even the last two polls before Nevada suggest that to be the case. Moreover, in an effort to lower expectations and reallocate resources, Bernie Sanders has given up on the state.

After Clinton’s big win in South Carolina, she’ll pull away a bit nationally. Even if a big Palmetto State victory is expected, we should remember that Sanders’s big New Hampshire win was also expected, but it was nonetheless a huge help nationally for Sanders. Clinton will convert South Carolina into a solid Super Tuesday, and she’ll steadily pull away from her progressive oppugner.

These post-Nevada developments are no surprise to the loyal readers of the arrogantly prescient Presidential Politics for America (who wants you to forget they ranked Trump the 11th most likely Republican nominee last July). Here are three of the relevant columns over the last two months:

  • December 28–Nevada: Forgotten, Yet Vital: “I think you need to keep a close eye on Nevada as a must-win state. If Sanders can somehow win both Iowa and New Hampshire, it won’t much matter if he goes on to lose Nevada and South Carolina before Super Tuesday.”
  • February 1–Who Will Win the Democratic Primary?: “Bernie Sanders has no margin for error. . . . If he doesn’t win Nevada (but he could!), it’s over.”
  • February 20–Nevada (D) Preview: “If Sanders loses Nevada, he’s going to lose South Carolina big. Clinton then regains control of the Democratic Primary and wins Super Tuesday going away. The rest is history.”

It’s too early to bury Sanders, but one foot is in the grave. Super Tuesday will show us if he can climb back out or if the second foot joins the first.

(I was going to end the post there, but I worried if I kept a post under 500 words, you readers would think I was kidnapped and replaced. So here’s more.)

If there is any drama tonight, it’s seeing how many delegates Sanders can siphon away from Clinton’s total in order to keep the pledged delegate count close. Remember, the hard total (which doesn’t count superdelegates or the not-yet-bound Iowa and Nevada delegates) is still 15-9 in favor of Sanders. Compared to the Republican rules that allowed a Trump 50-delegate sweep, Democratic rules allow for runners-up to much more easily earn delegates. If Sanders can keep it to, say, within 20 points, he could be looking at just a 6 or 7 overall hard delegate deficit against the big favorite, which can be spun heading into Super Tuesday.

Here’s a quick run down of today’s contest:

  • South Carolina if the fourth state on the calendar, and the last before Super Tuesday.
  • Voting opened at 7 and will close at 7 tonight. We’ll immediately get a projection for Hillary Clinton, before then watching to see what her winning margin is.
  • There are 53 pledged delegates to be won in South Carolina.
    • There are also six superdelegates, which have no business being discussed in this post or in the states’s final delegate results.
  • According to South Carolina Democratic rules, of the 53 delegates, 18 will be awarded proportionately through the state-wide results. If Clinton wins 65 – 35, she’d take 12 delegates to Sanders’s 6.
  • The other 35 are awarded by the seven Congressional districts, but not how the Republicans do it. The GOP gives each Congressional district three delegates, and if a candidate wins a district, they get all three delegates, even if they just barely won it with a plurality. As a result, even though Trump edged out Rubio in two districts, he still won the state’s 50 delegates because he was the overall winner (who gets all of the at large state delegates despite only earning a third of the state-wide vote) and winner in each district. Instead, the Democrats use proportional allocation at the district level just as they do at the state level.
  • But also unlike the GOP’s rules, districts are not of equal value on the Democratic side. They range from as few as three votes (district 3) to as many as 8 (district 6). There’s probably a Hunger Games joke to be made here, but I’m not seeing it.
    • The weighty 6th district has the highest percentage of African-Americans (57%) and South Carolina’s only black U.S. House member, Jim Clyburn. Expect Clinton to run up the score here.
    • If Sanders is held under 15 percent in a district (or state-wide), he is ineligible to win delegates from the district (or the state). Said sixth district is the most likely possibility for such a shutout.

Okay, now you know far more than the average American about a state that’s essentially already decided. I hope you’re proud.


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