Hillary Clinton’s South Carolina Firewall Is Holding

Hillary Clinton still has a massive lead in South Carolina, and in the Super Tuesday states that follow.

For the moment at least, Hillary Clinton continues to maintain a strong lead in South Carolina with just over a week to go before that state’s Democratic primary:

Likely voters in the Democratic primary in the Palmetto State, set to be held Saturday, February 27, tilt sharply toward Clinton over Sanders, 56% for Clinton to 38% for Sanders.

Clinton’s lead rests heavily on the state’s black voters and women. Both groups made up a majority of voters in the 2008 primary there. Among black voters, she leads 65% to 28%, and among women, she leads 60% to 33%. White voters break in Sanders’ favor, 54% for the Vermont senator to 40% for the former secretary of state, while men are about evenly divided between the two, 49% Clinton to 45% Sanders.

Still, Democratic voters in South Carolina aren’t as firm in their choices as Democrats in New Hampshire or Iowa were, according to pre-election polling. In surveys ahead of the first two contests, majorities said they had made up their minds. In South Carolina, however, just 43% say they have definitely decided whom to support with about 10 days to go before Election Day. Potentially troublesome for Clinton: Blacks were far less likely to say they are committed to a candidate than whites. About a third of black voters (34%) say they have decided on a candidate versus nearly 6 in 10 white voters (57%).

.Across all domestic issues tested in the poll, however, there are broad racial gaps in candidate trust, with majorities of blacks saying they trust Clinton more on each issue. Whites generally break for Sanders, though are evenly split on who would better handle race relations. Majorities across racial lines choose Clinton as better able to handle foreign policy.

The racial divide is perhaps starkest on core Democratic values. Asked which candidate better represents “the values of Democrats like yourself,” nearly two-thirds of whites choose Sanders over Clinton on that measure, while 7 in 10 blacks choose Clinton. And when assessing who would do more to help the middle class, 69% of blacks say Clinton would, while 66% of whites say Sanders would.

Majorities of both blacks (75%) and whites (58%) see Clinton as better able to win in November.

In addition to the CNN/ORC poll, there are a number of other polls that have been released over the past few days in the Palmetto State:

  • The latest ARG tracking poll gives Clinton (61%) a thirty point lead over Bernie Sanders (31%);
  • A poll from Public Policy Polling– gives Clinton (55%) a twenty-one point lead over Sanders; and,
  • A new Gravis poll gives Clinton (59%) an eighteen point lead over Sanders (41%)

While these numbers do reflect some slight tightening of the race in the Palmetto State from the days when Clinton was leading by forty percent and more, that kind of lead was probably unsustainable to begin with. As it stands, the RealClearPolitics now shows Clinton with a 21.2 point lead over Sanders, and no real indication of anything other than the kind of tightening you’d expect in a race like this. What is important for Clinton in these numbers, though, is the fact that there is no indication that Sanders has made any in roads into Clinton’s massive support among African-Americans in the state, an advantage that is largely responsible for her massive lead in the polls at this point. As long as that advantage continues and the African-American community turns out to vote for her in sufficient numbers, then Clinton stands to be in a strong position to win South Carolina quite handily on Saturday the 27th.

After a month that included barely winning the Iowa Caucuses, a drubbing in the New Hampshire primary, and new polling that suggests that Bernie Sanders is competitive in the Nevada Democratic Caucuses that will be held on Saturday, this is precisely the kind of news that Clinton’s campaign needs at this point. Holding off Sanders in South Carolina at the end of the month would make Clinton well situated heading into the Super Tuesday primaries on March 1st, and the follow-up to Super Tuesday on March 15th. It would also go a long way toward showing that the Sanders phenomenon is far less substantial than it appears to be based on the results and polls of the past several weeks.

As further good news for the Clinton campaign workers in Brooklyn and elsewhere, another set of polls shows that Clinton is maintaining strong leads in nearly all of the Super Tuesday states:

Hillary Clinton has had a tightly-fought race in February against Bernie Sanders, but she could soon be in for a raft of victories in the Super Tuesday contests on March 1.

A new set of polls released by Democratic-aligned firm Public Policy Polling finds Clinton leading in 10 out of 12 primaries to be held that day, with Clinton especially benefiting from the support of minority voters.

From the pollster’s analysis: “Clinton is benefiting in these states from overwhelming African American support. She leads by anywhere from 40-62 points among black voters in the nine of these states that have more black voters than the national average.”

The listing of polled states is as follows

Alabama: Clinton 59 percent, Sanders 31 percent

Arkansas: Clinton 57 percent, Sanders 32 percent

Georgia: Clinton 60 percent, Sanders 26 percent

Louisiana: Clinton 60 percent, Sanders 29 percent

Massachusetts: Sanders 49 percent, Clinton 42 percent

Michigan: Clinton 50 percent, Sanders 40 percent

Mississippi: Clinton 60 percent, Sanders 26 percent

Oklahoma: Clinton 46 percent, Sanders 44 percent

Tennessee: Clinton 58 percent, Sanders 32 percent

Texas: Clinton 57 percent, Sanders 34 percent

Virginia: Clinton 56 percent, Sanders 34 percent

Vermont: Sanders 86 percent, Clinton 10 percent


Assuming that these numbers hold up, then Clinton will be well-positioned to roll over Sanders to a large degree very early in March, and that will likely put much of the speculation about her vulnerability to an end. Of course, it’s possible that Sanders will start to close the gap in some of these states, but that would likely require that he make the kind of inroads into the African-American community that seems to be eluding him at the moment. Outside of a handful of endorsements from relatively unknown leaders, Sanders is not being very well-received by that community for some reason while Clinton appears to have her support locked up notwithstanding whatever problems may have developed out of the 2008 race for the Democratic nomination and her heated battle with Barack Obama. To a large degree, that now seems to be water under the bridge for most African-Americans and as long as that’s the case it will likely be hard for Sanders to break through in either South Carolina or any other state where the African-American vote is an important part of the Democratic electorate. If that holds up, then his campaign seems destined to fizzle out rather quickly.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Facebones says:

    I really like both Democratic candidates, but I’ve always felt that Bernie has benefited from:

    A) The politcal press’ lifelong animosity towards the Clintons and vice versa

    B) The desperate need of that same press to create a horse race (coronations are boring!)

    C) An outsized bubble of support from a noisy internet following. (Call it the Snakes on a Plane effect.) Young people love Bernie and they make a lot of noise on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Turning those people into a reliable voting block has been a tricky prospect.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Come on Doug, show some compassion for your fellow pundits. There are hordes of them out there relying on writing about the Hillary/Bernie horse race to keep their cushy jobs.

  3. Pch101 says:

    Unless she wins the primary by at least 240% and receives more than 430% of the youth vote, Clinton obviously can’t win the nomination. Or something like that.

  4. Hal_10000 says:

    Among black voters, she leads 65% to 28%

    You have to wonder how the Clintons can stab African-Americans in the back so often and still get this level of support. Cant’ help but think Sanders missed an opportunity here,

  5. Tyrell says:

    Hillary is still far from the huge lead that she had last fall. I like Bill, but his talks and statements could be a distraction from Hillary’s message. The last thing she needs is Bill going around half-cocked and talking too much.

  6. EddieInCA says:


    Hal –

    You gotta look at the choices….

    Among Hillary, Bernie, Donald, Ted, Marco, Jeb!, Ben, and John, who will actually try to put up policies that help minorities? Seriously.

    The only choice is Clinton, if you’re an African American. She was loyal to Obama, and her husband was the first “black President”, or have you forgotten that.

  7. al-Ameda says:

    The current polling data among larger states shows us just how distorted the small states – Iowa, NH, Nevada – are in the early going.

  8. walt moffett says:


    Team Clinton has been quite active with attention and other considerations to those who make up and distribute the sample ballots so folks don’t get confused.

  9. Pch101 says:


    Sanders is also better at retail politics, which is what dominates the beginning of these races. That probably helps to explain part of his problem with minority outreach — it has never really been necessary for his career thus far, so he hasn’t bothered with it, but it will be soon enough.

    Clinton has felt the sting of what happens to those who have to compete against someone who does it better. She seems to have learned her lesson.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    You have to wonder how the Clintons can stab African-Americans in the back so often and still get this level of support.

    This sounds similar to the conservative lament asking why so many blacks stay on the “Democrat Plantation”…

  11. SenyorDave says:

    @An Interested Party: This sounds similar to the conservative lament asking why so many blacks stay on the “Democrat Plantation”…

    I’ve never understood it either. After all, Lincoln was Republican and look at all he did for blacks. And when you watch the Republican convention this summer you’ll see all the black delegates and all the black Republican representatives and…

  12. Tillman says:

    @Hal_10000: Who knew linking a Michelle Alexander article at The Nation would lead to such acrimony?

  13. Andre Kenji says:

    I don´t think that Sanders can win. But Democratic establishment candidates that have hard time beating opponents without institutional support and form their left don´t win the general election. Michael Dukakis took so much time to beat Jesse Jackson, Mondale had Jackson and Hart.

    That´s a horrible sign for Hillary Clinton.

  14. Tony W says:

    @Andre Kenji: When it comes down to it, I think Clinton does better in the General than she does in polling. To actually pull the lever for a moron like Trump or Cruz feels very different than for a boring/establishment candidate like Hillary Clinton.

    ~80% of the electorate is partisan and unmovable (including me) – but the middle ground is far more likely Hillary’s than Cruz/Trump’s

  15. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Tyrell: Bill Clinton has many faults but campaigning, working a crowd and charming voters are not his weaknesses. He is HRC’s best ally even if the opposition goes after his history.

  16. Tyrell says:

    @Mr. Prosser: That is most certainly true. I always liked Bill. As you said, he is the best at talking to people on the streets and in restaurants of any politician I have seen. I love to hear his discussions with people like that.
    Saunders seems to be getting a lot of support from younger people. Understandable. What young person would not like free college, free pizza, free PS games, free this, free that.
    Hillary: all bark, no bite.

  17. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Thank you, Mitt Romney.

  18. the Q says:

    I guess the black folk forgot Bill/Hill and the welfare “reform” and the determinate sentencing laws and the income/job disparity that worsened under Obama.

    They should vote for Bernie and not the shrew.

  19. Modulo Myself says:

    Barring a historical collapse, Clinton will beat Sanders.

    What I don’t understand is why the numbers we’re getting about Clinton’s support supposedly bode well for the general election.

    She’s doing really well with black voters and really badly with white voters. With young voters, it’s not so good. Based on this, winning the general will require a turnout equal to Obama’s in 2008 and 2012. Is she going to be able have that level of black support? Because she’s going to need it. Otherwise she needs white voters in Virginia, NC, and Ohio, and these are the people that she’s having trouble winning over.