2020 candidates SCDP minus two (copy) (copy) (copy)

Where are they going? Where have the been? The Post and Courier is tracking all the visits by the Democrats running for president as the stump ahead of the S.C. Democratic primary in February. File/Associated Press

ANDERSON — Some stick to the biggest cities, where the largest concentration of voters await them. Others venture off the beaten path to rural towns, trying to prove their affection for those who are often ignored.

Some drop in for one-stop rallies, firing up a big crowd before flying out to their next state. Others drive up and down South Carolina interstates, popping into every coffee shop and barbecue joint they can fit in to a single day, shaking hands and taking selfies with anyone who asks.

Some are banking on South Carolina to give them the critical boost they need to rise above the horde of other contenders. Others know that the voters in other early primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada — are more suited to their candidacy than the diverse Palmetto State electorate and choose to focus their time elsewhere.

As the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race heats up, South Carolina voters are getting many opportunities to see the almost two dozen candidates up close before the Feb. 29 election. Hardly a week goes by without at least two to three White House hopefuls stumping somewhere around the state.

To try to help voters wrap their heads around the deluge of campaigning, The Post and Courier compiled a list of all the candidates' campaign events around South Carolina and created a map showing their stops.

2020 SC Presidential Candidate Tracker

A few statistics the SC tracker shows:

  • 2020 candidates have participated in a total of more than 150 events already.
  • The two candidates who have held the most events as of May 31 are U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, at 23 each. 
  • Candidates have been stopping in South Carolina since September 2017, when the earliest hopeful to declare — former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland — attended a Horry County Democratic Party dinner in Myrtle Beach.
  • Unsurprisingly, the most popular counties to visit have been the ones with the most voters. They are in order: Richland, Charleston, Greenville and Orangeburg. The largest county with relatively few visits so far has been Horry, a growing Republican stronghold.
  • The city of Columbia alone has accounted for almost a third of all campaign events. Columbia and Charleston combined have hosted more than half of the events.
  • U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has visited four times but held a total of five events. Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke and former Housing secretary Julián Castro, both of Texas, have both only visited twice but held a total of 11 events each across the state.
  • Some candidates haven't been back in a while, and others took time to make their first trip. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York made seven stops during a single swing in February but has't returned. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang announced he was running back in November 2017 but didn't make his first trip to South Carolina until a few weeks ago.

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For each and every stop, hours of internal campaign planning goes into deciding venue, format, guest speakers and a whole laundry list of other considerations. The most organized and well-staffed campaigns will send advance teams out to the locations days ahead of time to begin preparations.

College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts, who recently co-wrote a book on the state's "First in the South" primaries with colleague Jordan Ragusa, said executing an effective travel strategy around the state can be an important difference-maker for candidates.

"As you think about sheer numbers, it makes sense to go places where the most Democrats live," Knotts said. "But I also think there has been a real trend and a good, smart strategy of going to more rural areas, places where you can particularly reach out to African American voters, which is such an important group to connect with in Democratic primaries."

As soon as campaigns announce new events in South Carolina in the months leading up to the primary, they will be added to the tracker at postandcourier.com/2020tracker.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.