Although the primary outcome came as no surprise, it’s expected to send a clear message to President Biden’s Democrat challengers and critics.
President Joe Biden secured a decisive victory on Saturday in the first Democratic primary in South Carolina, solidifying his position as the leading candidate to represent his party in the upcoming presidential race.
The Associated Press projected President Biden as the winner at 7:26 p.m. ET.
The other major Democratic candidates on the ballot were Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) and author Marianne Williamson.
While the primary outcome was not surprising, it’s expected to send a clear message to President Biden’s Democrat challengers and those who have raised concerns about his age and performance.
Some observers said that turnout appeared lower than usual.
During the primary election weekend, President Biden did not make a visit to the Palmetto State.
However, the president made a visit to his campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Del., near his family residence. The president addressed a group of several hundred individuals, comprising both supporters and campaign staff.
During his speech, he framed the upcoming election as a fundamental test for democracy. He took aim at the behavior of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
President Biden remarked, “The guy we’re running against, he’s not for anything. He’s against everything.”
Biden pointed out that as Americans increasingly turned their attention to the upcoming election, the sharp contrast between him and the former president would help his campaign.
“Folks are starting to focus in,” he said, and then referred to a Quinnipiac national poll showing him leading Trump by six points as well as two Pennsylvania polls showing him ahead in that state.
Vice President Kamala Harris held a rally the day before the primary at South Carolina State University. She also took aim at the former President Trump, arguing that “he fights for himself.”
“There are extremists across our country who have been inspired, encouraged, and even cowed by the former president,” she said.
South Carolina is an open primary state, allowing any registered voter to participate in either party’s primary election but not both. This setup has led to speculation that certain Democrats may opt to delay casting their ballots in the Republican primary on Feb. 24 for Nikki Haley in an attempt to influence the outcome and hinder Donald Trump’s candidacy.
President Biden’s South Carolina triumph follows his unusual write-in victory in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary on Jan. 23, which the Democratic National Committee will not recognize due to a conflict between the party and the state over the timing of the contest.
After pressure from President Biden, national Democrats changed the rules to make South Carolina, not New Hampshire, the first Democratic presidential primary state in 2024. In response, President Biden’s supporters waged a write-in campaign for him in the Granite State, even though the DNC deemed that contest “meaningless.”
Democrats argue that South Carolina, with its diverse population, is demographically more representative of the nation.
The Palmetto State, traditionally a Republican stronghold with a significant conservative evangelical population, holds a unique significance for President Biden. During the 2020 nomination race, then-candidate Joe Biden clinched his first primary victory here, largely due to his strong support among black voters. The victory proved crucial in reviving his presidential campaign following three consecutive losses in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.
“In South Carolina, it was South Carolina that put President Joe Biden and me on the path to the White House,” Ms. Harris told her supporters during the rally.
Moving ahead, President Biden aims to win back the hearts of key voter demographics that helped him clinch victory in 2020. Recent polls indicate that key pillars of the Democratic base, including black, Hispanic, and young voters, are drifting away from President Biden.
In addition, he is facing enormous pressure to tackle the border crisis, as immigration has risen to the forefront in recent months, with record numbers of migrants illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Nathan Worcester and Lawrence Wilson contributed to this report.