Election 2020 South Carolina Fish Fry

Twenty-one of the Democrats seeking the party's presidential nomination pose together after House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn's "World Famous Fish Fry," Friday, June 21, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

The past week has been busy for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. 

They crammed onto a hot stage outside a Columbia children's museum for U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn's Fish Fry.

They piled one-by-one into the Columbia's convention center to speak to state party faithful.

Then they traveled to Miami for the race's first nationally televised debates. 

No wonder, in a poll taken shortly before this eventful week, four out of five S.C. Democratic voters say they are following the race closely.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has long ties to South Carolina, has led the field for the Feb. 29 primary since the first Post and Courier/Change Research poll was conducted in February.

Those behind him have changed from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Sen. Kamala Harris to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the latest survey.

Polling shows the other top S.C. contenders in the 24-candidate field are New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, whose numbers haven fallen off.

Here are some other insights from the latest Post and Courier/Change Research poll about the crowded 2020 S.C. Democratic primary and the general election in a state that has gone Republican since 1976. 

Getting to know you

Name recognition is helping Biden and Sanders.

Almost every S.C. Democratic voter is seeing or reading some news and information about Biden, the highest mark in the field and just a ahead of Sanders.

Warren and Harris come next with eight in 10 voters getting some information about the senators.

Booker, O'Rourke and Buttigieg come at the end of the current crop of front-runners.

The coverage of Buttigieg as the 2020 race's breakout candidate has helped in South Carolina where he sits third in polling.

While the mayor is not known by 19 percent of S.C. voters, that's not far off O'Rourke, considered the best potential breakout star after losing a highly contested race for the U.S. Senate in Texas last year.

Love for Joe

Biden has the highest favorability marks among the 2020 Democrats in South Carolina, according to the poll taken before the former vice president's comments about getting along with senators who backed segregation.

He sits at 81 percent, aided by thumbs up from nine in 10 black voters.

Warren, Sanders and Harris are next, hovering around 65 percent approval.

The next grouping includes Buttigieg and Booker around 55 percent. The survey was taken before Buttigieg was criticized for his handling of a white South Bend police officer killing a black man.

The rest, including O'Rourke, have favorability ratings under 50 percent with many voters just feeling neutral about candidates.

Love for Donald

GOP support for President Donald Trump remains strong in South Carolina.

Nine in 10 S.C. Republicans give the president favorable ratings and good marks on his job performance.

A bulk of GOP voters, 70 percent, said Trump reflects the Republican Party’s views.

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Eight in 10 S.C. GOP voters say they plan on definitely casting a ballot for Trump next year. Just 2 percent said they would definitely vote for another candidate.

Still Trump is not faring well among women in the state, especially those who are college-educated and identify as independent. The president's core is white men and non-college educated voters.

Trump vs. top Dems

No surprise in a Republican-leaning state that Trump would defeat top current Democratic challengers in a projected general election.

Biden does the best, losing 54 percent to 38 percent. The former vice president comes close to beating Trump among independents, 42 percent to 40 percent. 

Harris, Sanders and Booker nab 32 percent to 34 percent of the vote versus the president while earning a smaller share of support from independents. 

In looking at the chances of winning the White House, Democrats are pretty evenly split between predicting a Democrat will probably beat Trump and the race will be a toss-up.

Republicans are much more confident about their chances in November 2020 with nine in 10 predicting victory for Trump. 

And more than half of S.C. independents think the president will win another four years. 

SC voters' priorities

Health care is the top issue for S.C. Democratic primary voters followed by education, minority rights, abortion and jobs/economy.

Nearly 90 percent of Democratic primary voters support Medicare-for-all. The climate, a huge topic at the recent presidential debates, ranked sixth.

Immigration was by far the biggest priority for S.C. Republican primary voters.

Nearly a third of GOP voters cited the issue atop President Donald Trump's agenda as their main concern followed by abortion, transportation/roads and taxes. Jobs and crime fell outside the top five biggest issues.

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Columbia Bureau Chief

Andy Shain runs The Post and Courier's team based in South Carolina's capital city. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.

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