In a surprising move, the national Democratic party elevated South Carolina to first-in-the-nation primary status, a position that New Hampshire used to hold. President Biden had lobbied for this change, arguing that South Carolina reflected the diversity of America and centering Black voters early in the primary process. The state rallied around the “We Go First” campaign, emphasizing the importance of giving its most loyal voting bloc an early say in picking the party’s nominee.
Despite the race being essentially uncontested, the national party and Biden campaign sent high-profile surrogates to South Carolina. Vice President Kamala Harris visited twice in three weeks, and Biden made separate visits to Charleston and Columbia. However, the idea of returning New Hampshire its delegates was floated by Rep. Jim Clyburn, potentially undermining South Carolina’s argument for first-in-the-nation status.
The primary in South Carolina saw a significant drop in voter turnout from the previous election, raising questions about the effectiveness of the state’s first-in-the-nation status. Unlike the open and competitive primary in 2020, where South Carolinians turned out in large numbers, this year saw a 75 percent decrease in voter participation. Despite this, the state highlighted the increased Black participation in early voting, emphasizing the importance of giving diverse populations an early voice in the primary process. However, the future of South Carolina’s first-in-the-nation status remains uncertain, as the debate over its efficacy and impact on voter turnout continues.