USA: Why South Carolina's primaries (almost) always get it right | United States of America elections

South Carolina is known for its beaches, golf courses, boiled peanut recipe, and infallibility when it comes to selecting candidates in primaries. Especially among Republicans. Since 1980, they have been strategically positioning themselves among the first campaigns in the long campaign cycle leading up to the presidential election in November, and their voters have failed only once: that was when they chose Newt Gingrich instead of…

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South Carolina is known for its beaches, golf courses, boiled peanut recipe, and infallibility when it comes to selecting candidates in primaries. Especially among Republicans. Since its inception in 1980, this election, which is strategically located among the first in the long campaign cycle leading up to the presidential election in November, has had its voters fail only once: when they chose Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney in 2012. The man ultimately chosen to face (and lose) then-President Barack Obama.

South Carolina will decide on Saturday whether to award conservative delegates to fellow state Nikki Haley, who was also its governor between 2011 and 2017, or to former President Donald Trump, who is aspiring to return to the White House. Of the 14 candidates who started the race for the Republican nomination, only two remain. And along the way, all the polls say, the sentiment has remained, too: Polls this week gave the businessman a more than 30-point advantage, though Haley promised this weekend would not be her retirement weekend. He warned that this would continue until the Michigan primaries, which are held in a few days, and also until the famous Super Tuesday, when a wave of voting coincides across the country (15 states decide 874 of the 2,429 Republican delegates). This is the date that usually decides the votes of both parties. Everything indicates that in the great deja vu In 2024, they will have witnessed a repeat of the confrontation with the 2020 elections, in which Joe Biden defeated Trump.

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A girl attends Nikki Haley's rally in Georgetown, South Carolina, last Thursday.Brian Snyder (Reuters)

In the parlance of primaries, South Carolina has a nickname: it is “first in the South,” the first in the South, which this time comes after the Republican nominations in the Iowa caucuses, the primaries for both parties in New Delhi. Hampshire and the somewhat messy duality of the Nevada primaries/caucuses. In all those victories, Trump swept easily, and at a rally on Friday upstate, in Rock Hill, he assumed he would do it again here, and that he deserved what usually comes after such a victory: that the entire party rallied around his candidacy.

“The prestige of our primaries is due not only to their high ability to succeed, but also to the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire are accustomed to choosing different candidates,” explains H. Gibbs Knott, professor of political science at the University of Charleston College and co-author of To play a decisive role in the tiebreaker.” First in the South: Why South Carolina's presidential primary matters (First in the South: Why South Carolina's presidential primary matters.) He admits: “Now things are completely different, and this is a very atypical election. First, because of Trump’s strange personality, which changes everything. And second, because we did not even attend a debate between the candidates.”

Knott notes that South Carolina has a special, if different, meaning for each party. For Republicans, the primaries are almost a perfect crystal ball telling them about voter preferences in the South, key places to ensure victory in the presidential election. For Democrats, it is the first state to decide with a significant portion of black voters, a segment of the population that leans to the left: at 27.09%, it is the fifth state with the highest percentage of African-American population in the union. .

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“Demographically, it's very different from Iowa or New Hampshire or even Nevada. That makes it more similar to the country as a whole,” says Caitlin E. Jewett, a professor at Virginia Tech and author of the book, “It's very different from Iowa, New Hampshire, or even Nevada.” article About the presidential primary process.

Democratic maneuvers

That's why the Democratic Party was trying to maneuver to put the South Carolina event at the top of the calendar this year, Jewett recalls. The expert warns that whoever votes first is important, given his ability to direct the conflict due to “the media attention he receives.” And also because of the money that comes with many candidates who are still in the midst of their campaigns, and because of the hotels, car rentals and other expenses incurred by the corps of reporters on the ground.

Barack Obama, during the presidential election campaign that brought him to the White House, in June 2008.Scott Olson (Getty Images)

If Biden had won, New Hampshire would have lost it all, so its local Democratic leaders fought back tooth and nail to avoid being deprived of their prominent position in the presidential election. column. Finally, they held their primaries on January 23, but because of that dispute, Biden did not register on time and his name did not appear on the ballots. He also did not campaign, but he won. Not that he showed much of himself two weeks later in South Carolina, where he received 96.2% of the vote in an unusually low turnout vote.

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“But Democrats were late to the South Carolina party,” Knott explains. In 1988, they held their first caucuses, adopting the primary system four years later. They also usually hit the target. Since then, they have only failed once in their predictions about who would be the nominee for the White House, when they chose John Edwards in 2004 (not John Kerry, who lost to George W. Bush).

Ronald Reagan, in the 1980 Iowa caucuses. Bateman (Pittman Archive)

Ronald Reagan played a key role in the Republicans' passion for the ballot box in this southern state. “He was elected in 1980, and his choices were not clear then,” Knott says. The expert, who also remembers Obama's case, adds: “The fact that he left here was blessed, and that he later became a great point of reference for American conservatism, and a president who served two terms, contributed to the prestige of these primaries.” : His 2008 victory in South Carolina against Hillary gave rise to an unusual candidacy that ended up landing him in the White House for two terms as well.

This year there are fewer surprises. It is absolutely implausible that Haley would derail Trump from the clear path that would lead him (barring a very unlikely exception, which is in the hands of the Supreme Court) into a new confrontation with Biden. So what is Haley looking for in her efforts to hold out until Super Tuesday? “Maybe he will raise his national profile with the idea of ​​running in 2028; if that happens, his campaign will already be structured,” says Jewett, who factors in a “question of principles” as “powerful donors who haven’t lost patience yet” appear to be backing him. . He adds, “I also think he wants to show that there is still a Republican Party that does not agree with the morals of the former president.” The only certainty is that in the midst of the Trump hurricane, Haley will have no trouble getting this message across.

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Sacha Woodward

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