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Democrats Campaign In South Carolina


Democratic presidential hopefuls are converging on South Carolina, an important stop as they look to get their party's nomination. It's one of the first states to hold a primary. And even though it votes reliably Republican, it has a vital bloc of Democratic voters; African Americans. Four Democratic presidential candidates are in South Carolina this weekend - Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Texas Representative Beto O'Rourke and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

Yesterday, they attended a forum by the Black Economic Alliance, a political group championing economic opportunities for black Americans. And a new poll out today by South Carolina's The Post and Courier shows interesting new data. Here to talk about all that is Gavin Jackson. He's in Charleston right now, and he's a reporter for SCETV and the host of "This Week In South Carolina."


GAVIN JACKSON: Hey, thanks for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As we mentioned, South Carolina is an important primary state, and it has a large percentage of black voters. What does the latest poll show?

JACKSON: So what we're hearing is that we're going to see a pretty good bump for Senator Elizabeth Warren in the poll, which is kind of mirroring what we're seeing nationwide and in other early voting states for her. And that's going to be a pretty good sign for her, especially as we saw her receive so much attention yesterday. She was one of the few candidates that actually really resonated with the crowd and got a standing ovation from them.

But we are finding out that Pete Buttigieg - Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., is enjoying a nice little bump. And while he was also on stage too, I think people did enjoy hearing from him but, at the same time, not quite the same reaction that Warren and Booker were receiving. But the poll numbers are in his favor, so that's, obviously, a very good sign in this state.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Among the candidates who showed up this weekend, did their pitches differ? What are some of the things they proposed in terms of policy changes while they're trying to appeal to that very important constituency?

JACKSON: So a lot of them were really talking about more access to credit for the black community, especially looking at growing these entrepreneurs, growing these communities and really kind of doing it at a local level. You know, O'Rourke was really talking about more affordable housing options, whereas you heard Cory Booker really talking firsthand about gentrification efforts.

And, you know, going back to Beto O'Rourke, you know, he was in the low country before this, the day before, talking with members of the Gullah Geechee Nation, which is a community of slave descendants in South Carolina. So he was hearing their issues firsthand, and he was bringing them up firsthand. You know, a lot of them were talking to him about effects of climate change.

There was this rally, also, in South Carolina that day, yesterday, looking at, you know, the $15 minimum wage for McDonald's workers. So a lot of these candidates were out there with these people that were striking for that $15 national minimum wage and also, you know, unionization rights and trying to, you know, form unions for these workers in South Carolina, which is a right-to-work state, so it's very difficult. A lot of them were really still on their talking points besides that - Elizabeth Warren talking about her tax on ultra-millionaires, which she said could help fund education proposals. And of course, a lot of them also talking about student debt cancelation and tuition-free college.

So a lot of their normal proposals, nothing too groundbreaking that we saw from them - but at the same time, getting the opportunity to get in front of audiences that these few candidates have had kind of a hard time getting in front of. You know, a lot of their audiences are white predominately. These - they have large numbers in their crowds but, again, not as diverse as they need to be, especially in a state like South Carolina.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: South Carolina has only once voted for a Democrat. That was Jimmy Carter in the 1970s. But former President Barack Obama was very well-received there. And so I'm wondering about Joe Biden.

JACKSON: Well, he was here in May right after he made his announcement. And we did say - like I was talking about The Post and Courier. they had a poll come out originally, when he first announced. And he was enjoying - I think it was about 46%, so it's safe to say that he still maintains that advantage in this field.

However, I was talking to voters, and I still talk to voters. And they haven't really made up their mind. You know, we've seen some other numbers come out that show that there's still a large amount of people that are undecided. And we are still so far away from the February 20 primary. That says to me that, hey, there's still plenty of time for people to pick and choose here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Gavin Jackson, reporter for SCETV and host of "This Week In South Carolina."

Thank you very much.

JACKSON: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.