The South Carolina primary is tentatively set for Saturday, February 29, 2020. The “first-in-the-South” primary gives a voice to Southern states in the presidential nomination process. South Carolina often helps to begin significantly narrowing down the field of candidates following contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The South Carolina Republican Party is still deciding whether or not to hold a primary and may decide to simply skip the process, as they did in 1984 and 2004, as a show of support for President Trump. The real action in 2020 will be on the Democratic side where South Carolina will be the first big southern state to weigh in on the Democratic field.
No GOP primary scheduled
Saturday, February 29, 2020
Polling will be open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Anyone in line at 7:00 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
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Primary Type: Open (a voter may vote in either party primary, regardless of party affiliation)
Delegates: 59 D
State Authority: South Carolina State Election Commission
Historical Winners: (by year)
2016: Hillary Clinton (D), Donald Trump (R)
2012: Newt Gingrich (R)
2008: Barack Obama (D), John McCain (R)
2004: John Edwards (D)
2000: Al Gore (D), George W. Bush (R)
1996: Bob Dole (R)
What is the South Carolina Primary?
The South Carolina Primary is state-sponsored primary voting day. Voters will go to their typically voting locations in their precincts to make a choice for their respective party presidential nominee.
The South Carolina Primary, similar to New Hampshire and Iowa, is considered one of the “early states” in the presidential nomination process. While New Hampshire holds the “first-in-the-nation” primary title, South Carolina holds the “first-in-the-south” title as it is the first Southern state in the calendar to vote for presidential candidates running for their respective party nomination.
Often South Carolina is considered the “tie-breaker” between Iowa and New Hampshire if the states differ on candidate selection. For example, in the 2012 cycle, all Iowa and New Hampshire split with Iowa selecting Rick Santorum, and New Hampshire selecting Mitt Romney. Interestingly, neither of those two candidates won South Carolina with that prize going to Newt Gingrich which served to bolster his campaign further into the primaries.
South Carolina has a history of usually selecting the candidate who will go on to become the nominee. This was true in 1996, 2000, and 2008. However, 2012 broke that streak when Newt Gingrich did not get much further than South Carolina, in terms of primary victories.
In the 2016 cycle, Hillary Clinton won a considerable bloc of African-American voters which started her run of big victories in other southern state primaries, though South Carolina served as her first foothold in the south.
2020 Primary Schedule