COLUMBIA — The trickle of Democratic 2020 hopefuls making their way to the early presidential primary state of South Carolina is ramping up to a gush, with potential candidates racing in to get a piece of the action before the midterm elections.
A handful of contenders from what is expected to be a hyper-crowded field have already made early moves in the Palmetto State. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has made multiple stops and held fundraisers for state Democrats.
Other recent visitors include U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan of Ohio, Adam Schiff of California and John Delaney of Maryland, as well as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer.
The state has seen somewhat less action than the other early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire over the past year. But that's changing soon.
In the next week alone, scheduled arrivals include: U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bernie Sanders of Vermont; former Vice President Joe Biden; celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti; Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California campaigned for congressional candidate Mary Geren last week in Anderson. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts recently sent a fundraising email on behalf of state Democrats, and one of her former press secretaries recently became the state party's new communications director.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder is set to headline an NAACP gala in Charleston three days before the election.
While Iowa and New Hampshire come earlier in the primary schedule, South Carolina's famed "First in the South" primary offers candidates a key test among black voters and has a history of separating the wheat from the chaff.
Aside from the 2020 maneuvering, the entrance of nationally recognized Democrats offers a fundraising and energy boost to South Carolina Democratic candidates ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm.
It also provides fresh fodder for South Carolina Republicans, who have relentlessly sought to tie local candidates to some of the more polarizing policy ideas pushed by lawmakers from more progressive parts of the country.
"Bless their hearts," S.C. GOP Executive Director Hope Walker tweeted recently. "Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Terry McAuliffe — now Bernie Sanders. How many out of touch, socialist, extreme presidential wannabes are coming in for the SC Dems?"
In many cases, the national Democrats are traveling to the Palmetto State on their own and then seeking out local candidates to assist, rather than receiving an invitation. S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson said he is happy to welcome them.
"They can bring national attention to the corruption and to the fact Henry McMaster won't expand Medicaid," Robertson said. "I'm not scared to talk about what we stand for and what we believe in and what our policies are compared to the corruption, high power bills and people dying."