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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

With New Hampshire In Rearview, Candidates Head To South Carolina

Most of the presidential candidates are now turning to South Carolina, where the electorate differs dramatically from New Hampshire. (diamondduste/Flickr)

Most of the presidential candidates are now turning to South Carolina, where the electorate differs dramatically from New Hampshire. (diamondduste/Flickr)

It was a big night for presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who walked away the winners in the New Hampshire primary.

Sanders led Hillary Clinton by more than 20 points in what many considered a must-win for the Vermont senator. On the Republican side, Ohio Governor John Kasich came in second, followed by Iowa’s winner Ted Cruz and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Now the candidates turn to South Carolina, where the electorate differs dramatically. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Jamie Self of The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, for a primer.

Interview Highlights: Jamie Self

Where do the candidates stand in South Carolina?

“On the Democratic side, I think what you see is that Secretary Clinton has a pretty substantial lead here in the most recent polls, which were late January. So we haven’t seen any polls yet to kind of see where South Carolina voters stand now, but she was leading by almost 30 points.”

Do you expect that to change considering the outcome of New Hampshire?

“I don’t know that Sanders’ win in New Hampshire is going to have a substantial impact for him here. Clinton’s campaign has been in the state for a while, she has an even wider margin of support ahead of Sanders among the African-American community. I think the big thing for folks to remember is New Hampshire is a very different state, demographically, than South Carolina, especially in the Democratic electorate. African-Americans will make up over half of the voters who vote in the primary on February 27th, whereas New Hampshire is about 94 percent white.”

On the Republican candidates

“I think the Republicans are hoping to gain a little bit more traction here, particularly Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Those two candidates have positioned themselves as kind of the ‘anti-Trump.’ They have more support among the establishment here in the state, but they haven’t been doing very well, despite having folks in their organizations that have extensive ties to the state and know the political landscape here. They just haven’t been performing as well in the polls. Trump is still at the top. Cruz is still doing well, but I think the narrative coming out of New Hampshire, particularly for Jeb Bush, is going to be ‘look at Marco Rubio, he’s sliding,’ and we’ll be looking to see if his campaign can capitalize on that here.”

Will George W. Bush campaigning with Jeb Bush have an impact in South Carolina?

“I think, coming in to the campaign, that was the conventional wisdom. I think it’s been kind of surprising that he hasn’t done as well here and I think it fits into this narrative of what is driving people away from candidates like Bush and Rubio, more establishment candidates, and into the camps of candidates like Trump and Cruz?”

On John Kasich, following New Hampshire

“John Kasich hasn’t had a very extensive campaign here and he has not been holding the events like the other candidates have. He’s also more of a moderate, and in South Carolina, where the Republican primary electorate is going to be judging each candidate’s conservative credentials, they might look at his position on Medicaid expansion as something that they are not going to want to support.”

How important is the ground game in South Carolina?

“I think it’s really important, and I think that South Carolina may not be as small as Iowa or New Hampshire, but voters here also want to meet candidates. They want to feel like they have a relationship with them and you will hear from the Bush campaign for example, and the Clinton campaign that they got an early start here. Clinton has been campaigning in beauty shops and barber shops and going to pastors and speaking at NAACP events. On the Republican side, you hear some of the underdog candidates’ campaigns talk about building a strong network here, getting volunteers engaged and waiting for that moment that they can really call upon that network to push them to the top. But I think that this election cycle has been defying conventional wisdom to some extent because Trump’s campaign has been able to draw huge crowds, without evidence of really getting out there and building that grassroots network early on like the other campaigns have.”

Guest

  • Jamie Self, political reporter for The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, and its politics blog The Buzz. She tweets @jamiemself.

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