Biden wins South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary

Updated February 3, 2024 at 7:50 PM ET

President Biden won the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday, according to The Associated Press. It is the first official nominating contest for the party, and one that Democrats hope sends a message to Black voters.

As the incumbent president, Biden had been widely expected to carry the primary. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., and author Marianne Williamson were also on the ballot.

Biden backed the push to change the party’s calendar this year to put South Carolina’s primary at the front of the pack, ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s not a state that Democrats expect to win in the general election, but by elevating its primary, the Democratic Party is signaling the importance of Black voters — a crucial part of its base.

“When I was elected President, I said the days of the backbone of the Democratic Party being at the back of the line were over,” Biden said in a statement Saturday night. “That was a promise made and a promise kept. Now, you are First In The Nation.”

Despite skipping the unsanctioned New Hampshire primary, Biden won that race after voters wrote in his name — though the results won’t count toward his official nomination at the party’s convention in August.

South Carolina boosted Biden’s 2020 bid

In 2020, Biden turned around his struggling campaign in the state, where Black voters account for about 60% of the party’s electorate.

He referenced that win in his statement Saturday.

“In 2020, it was the voters of South Carolina who proved the pundits wrong, breathed new life into our campaign, and set us on the path to winning the Presidency,” Biden said. “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.”

The Biden campaign sees South Carolina as a springboard for his reelection bid and has poured resources into the state over the past month. Biden campaigned at a barbershop and spoke at a luncheon at a Black church. Vice President Harris campaigned in the state on Martin Luther King Jr. Day — and returned on Friday to speak at a historically Black college. First lady Jill Biden attended a gala for Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically Black sorority.

“We know that to be the Democratic nominee and to win the general, you need to be getting a lot of support from voters of color,” said Josh Marcus-Blank, the Biden campaign’s communications director for state operations. “And that’s what South Carolina is all about.”

Polls have shown Biden has been lagging in approval ratings with younger voters and nonwhite voters, so analysts will be paying close attention to turnout as a signal of whether Biden’s message is resonating.

But Terrance Woodbury of HIT Strategies, a group that researches Black voter attitudes, cautioned against overanalyzing the results of this primary — a contest that likely will mainly attract party faithful, rather than the broader group of Black voters that Biden needs to win in battleground states like Georgia and North Carolina.

“The voters that Democrats need to mobilize in the general election aren’t participating in the primary election,” Woodbury told NPR.

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