COLUMBIA, South carolina — U.S. President Joe Biden overwhelmingly won South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Saturday, notching a 2024 victory in the state that vaulted him to the White House four years ago.
Biden defeated the long-shot Democrats on South Carolina’s ballot, including Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson.
“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 in a statement. “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 president’s campaign had invested heavily in driving up turnout for Biden, aiming to test-drive efforts to mobilize Black voters, who are a key part of the Democratic vote in South Carolina and central to Biden’s strategy for victory in November.
Biden’s win comes in a state that he and other party leaders wanted to lead the party’s 2024 primary calendar. In picking South Carolina, they cited the state’s far more racially diverse population compared to the traditional first-in-the-nation states of Iowa and New Hampshire, which are overwhelmingly white.
In defiance of the Democratic National Committee, New Hampshire held a leadoff primary last month anyway. But without the president’s or the national party’s backing and no delegates officially at stake, the contest was nonbinding. Biden still won New Hampshire by a sizable margin after supporters mounted a write-in campaign on his behalf.
South Carolina, where Biden has long held deep relationships with supporters and donors, played a pivotal role in his 2020 campaign, where a big win helped revive a flagging effort in other early-voting states and propelled him to the nomination.
Biden has been aided in his South Carolina campaign by Representative Jim Clyburn, whose 2020 endorsement served as a long-awaited signal to the state’s Black voters that Biden would be the right candidate to advocate for their interests.
Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman and Asian American to serve in the role, have consistently thanked the state’s Democrats for their support.
A week ago, Biden told attendees at a state party fundraiser that “you’re the reason I am president.” He also argued to an audience of hundreds of party faithful that they were “the reason Donald Trump is a loser. And you’re the reason we’re going to win and beat him again,” framing the likely general election matchup with the GOP’s current front-runner.
Biden’s reelection campaign has said it was using the state’s primary to test strategies and messages that best motivate Black voters to the polls for the November general election. Though the state is solidly Republican, South Carolina’s diverse primary voters mirror the Democratic coalition that Biden must hold together to win another term.
Black voters interviewed during the recent early voting period listed a range of reasons for supporting Biden, from his administration’s defense of abortion rights to appointing Black jurists and other minorities to the federal courts. Some echoed Biden’s warnings that Trump would threaten democracy as he continues to push lies that the 2020 vote was stolen.
“We can’t live with a leader that will make this into a dictatorship. We can’t live in a place that is not a democracy. That will be a fall for America,” said LaJoia Broughton, a 42-year-old small business owner in Columbia. “So my vote is with Biden. It has been with Biden and will continue to be with Biden.”
Some voters said they were concerned about the 81-year-old Biden’s age, as many Americans have said they are in public polling. Trump is 77. Both men have had a series of public flubs that have fueled skepticism about their readiness.
“They’re as old as I am and to have these two guys be the only choices, that’s kind of difficult,” said Charles Trower, a 77-year-old from Blythewood, South Carolina. “But I would much rather have President Biden than even consider the other guy.”
From South Carolina, the Democratic nominating calendar moves to Nevada, which holds its primary on Tuesday, and then to Michigan on Feb. 27.