Presidential Politics And Election Returns
Last Updated July 14, 2003
In presidential general elections South Carolina is reliably Republican. It was the only Deep South state to vote for Richard Nixon over George Wallace in 1968 and since then has voted Democratic only once, for Jimmy Carter in 1976. It was one of the top three Republican states in 1988 and 1992; it was solidly Republican in 1996 and 2000.
South Carolina does not set one day for presidential primaries or caucuses; each of its two major party selects a date and decides whether it will be a primary or caucus. In 1987 Lee Atwater purposefully scheduled the Republican primary here for the Saturday before Super Tuesday, and in 1988 George Bush won a 49%-21%-19% victory over Bob Dole and Pat Robertson, forecasting the Southern sweep that clinched his nomination four days later. Democrats chose their delegates by caucus; a Democratic primary would have had an electorate about 50% black and would surely have produced a victory for South Carolina native Jesse Jackson, which would not have been helpful to the party in state elections. In 1992 Bush beat Pat Buchanan 67%-26%, squashing Buchanan's claims to Southern support. Democrats held a primary the same day, which Bill Clinton won with 63% of the vote; 148,000 voted in the Republican primary and 116,000 in the Democratic. In 1996 former Governor Carroll Campbell and Governor David Beasley led a grass-roots campaign that gave Bob Dole, after his disappointing showings elsewhere, an impressive 45%-29% victory over Buchanan; turnout was 276,000. And in 2000 Campbell and Beasley, both now ex-governors, supported George W. Bush, as he beat John McCain 53%-42%. Turnout was 573,000 of which 10% were self-identified Democrats and 30% were self-identified Independents; McCain carried both those groups, but lost by a wide margin among self-identified Republicans. Democrats chose their delegates by caucus in 1996 and 2000.
In 2004 Democrats will hold a primary February 3, one week after New Hampshire; Republicans will choose their delegates by caucus. South Carolina was the first of several primaries scheduled for that date, and one that was paid heavy attention by the candidates and the press; as early as May 2, 2003, all nine announced candidates and the press trouped down to Columbia for the earliest presidential candidates' debate in history. The big mystery about the South Carolina primary is the turnout. It will certainly be the first contest with a significant number of black voters; Iowa's population is 2% black and New Hampshire's 1%. Blacks could turn out to be a majority of primary voters; the November 2000 exit poll showed that 53% of South Carolina Gore voters were black. But because there is no simultaneous Republican contest, self-identified Independents and Republicans can vote in the Democratic primary, and may--to an unknown extent. In early 2003 Democratic candidates were paying plenty of attention to 6th district Congressman Jim Clyburn, who said he will not make an endorsement until late in the campaign, and to other black politicians and prominent black ministers. But it is possible that some--particularly John Edwards and Joe Lieberman--might strike themes designed to appeal to white South Carolinians who usually or often vote Republican.
|2000 Presidential Vote|
|2000 Republican Primary|
|1996 Presidential Vote|
For 1992 and 1996 presidential results in South Carolina, please see the Almanac 2000 online.
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