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Let's Talk About the Democrats (and Specifically, South Carolina)

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | November 1, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | November 1, 2019 |


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We’ve been so focused on Trump and the impeachment inquiry that we haven’t paid much attention to the other side of the 2020 election, particularly knowing that the Democratic nominee will almost certainly end up facing Donald Trump, the impeachment inquiry notwithstanding.

This morning, Elizabeth Warren released a plan to pay for her $52 trillion Medicare for All plan (but only $20 trillion in new spending, Fox News!). Bernie’s Medicare for All proposal calls for some tax hikes on the middle class (although, it would still result in overall less spending for middle-class families, because they wouldn’t have to pay for insurance premiums, co-payments, prescriptions, etc.). Warren, however, will leave the middle class alone and pay for the plan by taxing employers (who won’t have to provide health coverage to their employees anymore), big businesses, and the wealthy. She also expanded her wealth tax to six cents on the dollar for every dollar above $1 billion.

I don’t know that Medicare for All has a shot in hell of passing Congress (I hope it does!), but if it does, I expect that the money would come from a combination of modest middle-class tax hikes and a wealth tax. Warren is clearly afraid of admitting that such a plan would probably mean raising taxes on the middle class because Warren knows that a lot of people just hear “tax hike” without understanding “less overall spending.” My family spends an insane amount of money a year in premiums: The government can tax all of that if they want, and I still come out on the plus side because I don’t have to pay for medical visits, hospital stays, ER visits, prescription benefits, and a stupid $70 co-pay to see a therapist because your doctor thought you should see one even though the therapist was like, “You don’t need to be here, dude.” Great, can I have my $70 back?

That’s the deal with Warren’s plan. Warren is hoping that such a plan will shore up her support in Iowa, where the latest poll gives her a modest lead (22 percent) over Sanders (19 percent), Buttigieg (18 percent) and Biden (17 percent). Biden is clearly fading in Iowa, where he only has 2 percent of the vote for those under the age of 45.

That’s not good, Joe.

While the poll is not good for Biden, no one has pulled away, and it’s Iowa. It may be first in the nation, but Sanders, Buttigieg, and Warren would need a resounding victory both there and in New Hampshire to gain victory in South Carolina.

It’s my opinion — and feel free to vehemently disagree — but it’s South Carolina that will ultimately matter the most, because the population is more reflective of the Democratic electorate (in other words, there are Black people in South Carolina. There are not in Iowa or New Hampshire). Whoever wins South Carolina, I think, will win on Super Tuesday and ultimately take the nomination. Victories in Iowa and New Hampshire can go a long way toward gaining the momentum necessary to win in South Carolina.

However, Joe Biden is still doing well in the state. He holds a commanding lead among Black voters, who will decide the winner in South Carolina and, ultimately, the country. The good news for Biden is that he has the support right now of 52 percent of the Black vote, compared to 26 percent for Warren.

The bad news for Biden is that 52 percent is down 10 percent since the last poll, and nowhere near the 77 percent support among Black voters that Hillary Clinton had at this point in 2017. Despite her massive lead, Clinton went on to lose by 30 points to Obama.

The wrinkle here is that Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg are not Barack Obama. Buttigieg has pivoted to the center, in part to attract more Black voters, and Sanders got the endorsements of Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Tlaib. Warren hasn’t figured out South Carolina yet. Some think she will. Some think she won’t. Here’s how two people in South Carolina see it (from The State):

“Black voters are very sophisticated voters,” said Maurice Mitchell, the president of the Working Families Party, which endorsed Warren. “It wasn’t until Barack Obama won Iowa that many black voters made a decision (to support) him. … They weren’t sure if white America was ready for a black president.

“When people see how she performs in the two earliest contests,” Mitchell, who is black, continued, “that is going to have an impact on South Carolina and on voters, no question.”

Sam Johnson, a black Democrat with a history of involvement in S.C. politics and has no plans to endorse, disagreed.

“I like Warren,” he said. “But I don’t think she can get the base that you’d have to have to win. She can do well in Iowa, she can do well in New Hampshire, but I don’t think she can build the type of support that you need in South Carolina to really own it.”

So goes South Carolina, so goes the nation (at least where it concerns the Democratic nomination). Kamala Harris could theoretically come into South Carolina and do well, but only if she can prove she can win by doing well in Iowa and New Hampshire. She’s polling below Amy Klobuchar in Iowa now, and her campaign is cash strapped. I don’t see her rebounding, sadly.

In other words, I have no idea who is going to win South Carolina, and therefore, I have no idea who is going to win the nomination. I will say this: Two-thirds of Democratic voters in South Carolina are Black. If I’m any one of the leading candidates, I’d be spending a lot of time in South Carolina between now and February 29th.



Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.


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