Biden Faces Uphill Battle as Nikki Haley Gains Traction in South Carolina

President Biden appears poised for a comfortable victory in the South Carolina primary, yet Republican contender Nikki Haley may dent his triumph.

Biden, like in 2020, is anticipated to secure a substantial win in Saturday’s election, overshadowing Democratic rivals Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson. However, polling data reveals discontent among voters regarding the president’s handling of crucial issues.

His supporters are tempering expectations for a repeat of the high turnout witnessed four years ago, suggesting that Haley, a former South Carolina governor, could chip away at his numbers.

Voters in South Carolina, where party affiliation isn’t registered, are signaling a shift. Some traditional Democratic and independent voters indicate intentions to skip the Democratic primary to back Haley in the upcoming Republican primary on Feb. 24, aiming to thwart former President Donald Trump’s return.

“We should be paying attention to whether people are voting in the Republican Party to ‘stop Trump’ or whether they are doing what they should be doing, which is voting in the Democratic primary. That will also have an impact on turnout,” remarked South Carolina Democratic political strategist Antjuan Seawright.

Haley, aggressively campaigning against both Biden and Trump, trails the former president by a significant margin in Republican primary polls, framing herself as a fresh face against the backdrop of the incumbent president, 77, and Trump, 81.

The 52-year-old Haley, who secured a solid second-place finish to Trump in New Hampshire, portrays the two men as relics of a bygone political era.

Haley’s Democratic supporters see her as a preferable alternative to Trump, should Biden fail to secure a second term. However, general election matchup polls indicate Trump leading Biden both nationally and in critical battleground states.

“I’d rather have Haley win than turn our democracy over to someone who already has publicly admitted he’d be a dictator,” wrote Donald L. Sparks, a former Senate Democratic staffer and professor emeritus at The Citadel, in The Post and Courier.

During his recent visit to South Carolina, Biden emphasized the pivotal role of voters, particularly Black voters, in preventing Trump’s return to the White House.

“The truth is, I wouldn’t be here without the Democratic voters of South Carolina, and that’s a fact,” Biden asserted. “You are the reason I’m president. You’re the reason Kamala Harris is a historic vice president. You’re the reason Donald Trump is a defeated former president. You’re the reason Donald Trump is a loser, and you’re the reason we’re going to win and beat him again.”

South Carolina’s Democratic voters played a crucial role in Biden’s 2020 primary win, rescuing his campaign and catapulting him to the nomination and ultimately the presidency.

Biden’s fortunes in South Carolina are pivotal amid indications of a decline in his support among Black voters, from 87% in 2020 to 63%, as per a USA/Suffolk University poll released in January.

Democratic Party officials have launched a concerted effort to galvanize support, focusing on minority turnout and highlighting Biden’s achievements.

“He’s test-driving messaging in rural communities like those in South Carolina, with African American voters, with young voters, with women voters, on his accomplishments,” noted Seawright. “The exit polling will tell us what messaging resonates the most.”