The first official Democratic primary is on Saturday in South Carolina
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We've been closely following the Republican presidential primary contest, so it's easy to forget that there is also a nominating process happening on the Democratic side, too.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Yeah. The first where President Biden will actually be on the ballot happens tomorrow in South Carolina.
MARTIN: Joining us now to tell us more about this is Maayan Schechter with South Carolina Public Radio. Maayan, good morning.
MAAYAN SCHECHTER, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: So President Biden is the incumbent, obviously, pretty much unopposed. So going into tomorrow, expected to win. So what will you be looking at once the results are in? And while you're at it, Maayan, why don't you just remind us about why South Carolina is going first this time around? This is new.
SCHECHTER: Sure. So a year ago, the Democratic National Committee, with President Biden's backing, of course, voted to put South Carolina first. It's a nod to the state's diversity, specifically those Black voters here who make up about two-thirds of the Democratic Party base - much higher, of course, than other early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. What I'm really looking at on Saturday is turnout, and within that turnout, who shows up and who doesn't show up as they did perhaps - maybe four years ago.
And I'm watching that turnout for two reasons. One, it could counter this narrative. We've heard a lot from either polls or pundits that people in the president's own party just aren't energized this election cycle to back Biden. The other part is that leaders really want to show off this race, especially to doubters in other states, that South Carolina truly deserves to stay first and especially go first in 2028, where, of course, the stakes may be even higher. So it's important for the party. It's important for the DNC to tell everyone, hey, look, South Carolina is diverse; South Carolina does back Biden; and we are the best state to look at where Democratic voters, particularly Black voters, are today.
MARTIN: So say more about that if you would because, as you said, like, back in 2020, Black Democrats in particular in South Carolina were credited with saving Biden's campaign when, you know, people voted for him there, really pushed him ahead of other strong primary challengers, at least people who looked like they were strong. Could you just say a little bit more about the diversity of the state?
SCHECHTER: Sure. You know, South Carolina is one of the top fastest-growing states in the country. It's still very white, higher than 60%. But African Americans here make up about 26% of the state's population, which is almost double what it is nationally at nearly 14%. And Black voters here do make up a majority of the state's Democratic Party, as I said earlier, accounting for somewhere around 60% of the base. And that's three times higher, actually, than the percentage of Black Democrats who voted in 2020, according to Pew Research.
MARTIN: So as you've been speaking to voters, what's motivating them to vote?
SCHECHTER: Everyone has their own personal motivator. What I hear a lot from voters are kitchen table issues like health care. You know, for instance, I've talked to people who are maybe diabetic or they know someone who's diabetic. And so that $35 insulin cap has been super helpful. That's a concern for so many Black South Carolinians here. And that's actually a personal story for Congressman Jim Clyburn, whose late wife was diabetic.
There's also Democratic voters who are super motivated after the Supreme Court, which obviously has a conservative tilt because of Trump's nominees - they're very unhappy with the court unwinding abortion rights and what that's meant for states. South Carolina has a six-week ban. But I will say the overwhelming reason, and, frankly, the biggest concern I hear from a lot of voters, is just Trump. They see Trump as undoing a lot of the good that they say Biden has been able to achieve.
MARTIN: And as briefly as you can, what are some of the hesitations people in Biden's party have about him there?
SCHECHTER: Age, not listening to their generation, exhausted by another Trump-Biden rematch, and also Israel's war in Gaza are the top issues I hear.
MARTIN: That is Maayan Schechter with South Carolina Public Radio. Maayan, thank you.
SCHECHTER: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.