Biden South Carolina

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the first South Carolina rally of his 2020 presidential campaign in Columbia on Saturday, May 4, 2019. File/Daniel Hare/Special to The Post and Courier

When Nancy Pelosi says somebody’s too liberal, you have to figure they’re somewhere left of Saturn.

Or at least South Carolina.

The House speaker told Bloomberg News last week that the wealth tax and “Medicare for All” ideas that some Democratic presidential candidates have promised are losers at the ballot box ... just as they will be.

“What works in San Francisco does not necessarily work in Michigan,” Pelosi said. “What works in Michigan works in San Francisco — talking about workers’ rights and sharing prosperity.”

She means tacking far left is no way to win a national election, and Dems would be foolish to ignore her. Although Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders all poll far better than President Donald Trump nationally, that is irrelevant.

“You must win the Electoral College,” the speaker correctly points out.

That is simply astute politics, a lesson from 2016 — and exactly what many South Carolina Democrats appear to be most concerned with these days.

The latest Post and Courier-Change Research poll shows Biden leading the pack of Democratic contenders four months out from South Carolina’s presidential primary. Just as he has been most of the past year.

Biden has the support of 30 percent of Democratic primary voters in the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent (take the over). His closest competitor, Warren, is at 19 percent. Bernie’s back there at 13 percent.

As political reporter Andy Shain points out, Warren has slightly higher favorability ratings than Biden — both are in the 70s — but still the former vice president maintains a solid lead. Why, if more voters like Warren, are they supporting Biden?

Is it because Biden has good relationships here, going back to Strom Thurmond and Fritz Hollings? Is it because he's been coming to South Carolina regularly for decades?

No, the answer lies in other states’ polls.

The New York Times recently published a series of battleground state polls that show Biden beating Trump in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Arizona. Trump has a slight lead over Biden in North Carolina and is essentially tied with him in Michigan.

But Warren trails Trump in all those states except Arizona. Sanders is within the margin of error in a couple, but not by much.

All that only confirms what leading Democrats in South Carolina have been saying all along: Biden is their best bet to win the general election.

Democrats here have a slightly different perspective from those in Iowa or New Hampshire. Living in a state long dominated by Republicans, they’ve learned to take what is possible rather than place a losing bet on what is optimal.

Which is exactly what Pelosi was saying, in a roundabout way.

The herd of political analysts and talking heads says the key for Warren in South Carolina is to attract more of the African American vote, a facile argument that assumes all black people vote the same way.

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Of course, Warren needs more African American votes to win South Carolina because black voters make up two-thirds of the party here. But they aren’t a monolithic bloc.

Fact is, black and white South Carolina Democrats, at least those who’ve been around long enough to remember the civil rights movement, are far more interested in not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

America may not be the Titanic, but it turns like it. Change is incremental ... and slow. Things that sound too good to be true always are.

As one Democrat said at a recent Kamala Harris event: “I like her, but Biden can win.”

That is what's behind this most recent polling, and why Biden will win South Carolina.

There is only one asterisk here: In 2008, Hillary Clinton was leading Barack Obama in South Carolina — until Obama won Iowa, showing Dems here that he was a viable candidate.

If Iowa and New Hampshire coalesce behind one candidate, South Carolina’s numbers could change. But if there’s a split, expect the state to stick with Biden.

Because like Nancy Pelosi, South Carolina Democrats don’t have their heads in the cosmos. They’re not interested in glass ceilings, setting precedents or aiming for the bleachers this time.

They just want to win.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.