Former Vice President Joe Biden has long counted on South Carolina to vault him to the top of the Democratic presidential primaries.
A new poll suggests those hopes may be inflated.
A poll conducted by the Change Research for the Democratic group The Welcome Party reported that Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is tied with Biden at 23 percent support, while billionaire Tom Steyer is not far behind at 20 percent support, according to the poll results, which were released exclusively to The Hill.
The new poll shows that Sanders rose 3 percentage points while Biden fell by 2 points since the last poll taken before Biden’s lackluster finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Steyer showed a 2-point increase, but the big gain went to former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who rose 8 percentage points and now is at 15 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts polled at 9 percent support while Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota polled at 8 percent.
However, all may not be lost for the former vice president just yet, as there is at least some reason to question the validity of these numbers.
“The poll surveyed 1,015 South Carolina likely voters online from Feb. 12-14,” according to The Hill. “The survey does not report a margin of error.”
Without a margin of error, it’s impossible to estimate how much weight to give these results. It also calls into question the legitimacy of the polling organization itself, since releasing a margin of error is a pretty basic task among pollsters. (The Western Journal decided to report on these numbers because of the general dearth of polling data available out of South Carolina. Even a badly reported poll is usually — usually — better than nothing. Ed. note)
A poll by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell gave Biden a slim lead over Sanders, 23 percent to 21 percent, while showing Steyer at 13 percent, Warren and Buttigieg at 11 percent and Klobuchar at 9 percent. That’s a significant turnaround from early polls that showed Biden leading by as much as 20 points.
However, this poll, while apparently done more methodically, had a margin of error of plus or minus 7.5 percentage points, meaning that Biden’s 23 percent could literally represent indicate actual support from likely South Carolina primary voters of about 15 percent to 31 percent, or anything in between.
Some commentators suggested Steyer was hurting Biden by reaching out to black voters, who have been widely considered to be largely supportive of Biden.
“I think that he’s creating space for others and narrowing the lane,” state Sen. Gerald Malloy of South Carolina’s Legislative Black Caucus told The Washington Post. “Tom Steyer has the willingness to reach out to minority voters in ways that other candidates can’t or haven’t.”
“Anybody who comes into South Carolina thinking that they have the vote is in for a rude awakening — and we know who that refers to,” said Johnnie Cordero, chairman of the Democratic Black Caucus of South Carolina.
But Biden has insisted minority voters will be on his side when it’s time to show up at the polls.
“Look, we’re moving in an especially important phase because up ‘til now, we haven’t heard from the most committed constituency in the Democratic Party — the African-American community. And the fast and the fastest-growing segment of society, the Latino community,” Biden said last week, according to ABC.
“When you hear all these pundits and experts … talk about the race, tell them it ain’t over, man. We’re just getting started.
“Our votes count, too,” he said.
Others said Biden may have taken South Carolina for granted.
“Biden’s lead was based on the perception that he was the strongest candidate to be Trump,” state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter said, adding that Biden may have “sat on victory.”
“Over the month that image of him being the strongest candidate has diminished based on a variety of factors: his performance at debates for one and here in South Carolina. He hasn’t been in the state. There is goodwill towards him but all relationships must be maintained,” she said.
“I think, in some large part, the Biden campaign has played it safe and on some level has taken the voters here in South Carolina for granted,” she said.
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