John Edwards South Carolina Surge

Taegan Goddard notes that the two most recent polls on tomorrow’s Democratic primary in South Carolina shows John Edwards surging.

Said pollster John Zogby: “The real movement here is by John Edwards, who is the only one who continues to gain ground in our three-day tracking poll. His increase appears to be coming from African American voters who are slowly making up their minds.”

The State: “Watch John Edwards. With only a day left before Saturday’s S.C. Democratic presidential primary, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina and S.C. native is making a move.”

Indeed, the trend lines show Edwards surging while both Clinton and Obama plummet:

South Carolina Democratic Primary Poll Trends

Of course, they also show him a distant third. The chart gives a better indicator here:

South Carolina Democratic Primary Poll Numbers

Edwards is in third place in all five of the most recent likely voter surveys — and is only within the margin of error of second in two of the five. Chances are pretty good, then, that he finishes third. And the best he can hope for is to edge Clinton for second.

So, let’s say he “shocks the world” by coming in second in a place where people talk like him (he’s from next-door North Carolina, after all) beating out a Yankee senator. Yay for him. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats allocate their South Carolina delegates proportionally. So he’d get a couple more than if he’d finished third. But so what? He’s not going to suddenly become a contender.

He’s light years behind Clinton and Obama for third in the meaningless (delegate-wise) Florida primary, which means he’ll go into Super Duper Tuesday without having won a single contest. He’ll almost certainly finish the day the same way.

Perhaps one could argue that coming in third would hurt Clinton, showing that she’s not very appealing in the South. But we kinda knew that already. And she’ll go on to win Florida, easily, three days later and regain her momentum (albeit without any extra delegates to show for it). Super Tuesday will remain a two-way race between her and Obama.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, 2008 Election, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Michael says:

    So he’d get a couple more than if he’d finished third. But so what? He’s not going to suddenly become a contender.

    As you keep saying, perception is often more important to winning than actual delegates. A second place finish puts him all over the news, and of course he would get the obligatory label of “Comeback Kid”, until someone else wins something else and takes that label.

  2. FireWolf says:

    Comeback Kid or not, John Edwards won’t have enough votes/delegates to win the nomination. So the poll data coming out today is irrelevant.

    Just like on the Republican side, it doesn’t matter that Guliani spent all his money on Florida, his campaign is over.

    In the end this will be a Clinton/Obama – Romney/McCain primary.

    The end results from that fact is up in the air.

  3. Michael says:

    Comeback Kid or not, John Edwards won’t have enough votes/delegates to win the nomination.

    Now that’s math I can agree with.

  4. James,

    Ever since I joined the Wizbang Politics crew, I get him with many of the same email. At first I’d open them up, but I learned quickly to hit the delete. In case of the more absurd ones, I blog about it. Like how someone supporting Thompson was trying to spin the endorsement of the Ottumwa Iowa newspaper into big news!

    Unfortunately AOL doesn’t filter out much of these spam. I got to get rid of them the old fashioned way.


  5. wetheleaders says:

    John Edwards has a great chance of winning SC tomorrow. Here’s why:

    1. Obama will not get 75% of the black vote. I think his numbers will actually be around 60% in that demographic. Anything less than 70%, and he’ll struggle. I expect the black vote to distribute something like Obama 60%, Clinton 25%, Edwards 15%. Edwards’ support among blacks has been ticking upwards this week. I think he reaches 15%, and if he gets more than that it’ll be a long day for Clinton and Obama.

    2. The dynamics that were at play for Clinton in NH, are there for Edwards in SC. A strong performance in the debate has him rising. People who “made up their minds” late, went for Clinton. There is a good chance that people who make up their minds late in SC will go for Edwards. If the exit polls show early on that a large chunk of voters made up their minds in the last week or on the day of voting, it could benefit Edwards a lot, because he has the momentum and the others don’t.

    3. Republicans and Independents who didn’t vote last week in the GOP Primary can vote this week. Joe Republican and Joe Independent in SC are a different voter than they are in NH or Iowa or NV. I think Joe Republican and Joe Independent vote for the guy who was born in South Carolina on tomorrow. If they make up a good chunk of the vote tomorrow, they could throw the race to Edwards, if they aren’t being picked up well in these polls. Last time in 2004, Zogby had Kerry closing to within ONE POINT of Edwards a few days before the SC primary. Edwards won the state by 15%. Zogby probably didn’t pick up Independents and Republicans there like he should have. He’s probably not doing the same thing this time. If those kinds of voters show up, Edwards could get a boost. Last time, 24% of voters were Indies and 5% were Republicans, so that was almost 30% of the total voters in the SC Dem primary. Edwards got 48% of the Independents and 54% of the Republicans, based on CNN’s exit polls. We’ll see how many show up tomorrow.

    I think these are the three factors on tomorrow that will matter the most in terms of who finishes first, and whether or not Edwards surprises.

  6. Edwards says:

    John Edwards is kind of a phony.

    As illustrated by the link…

  7. Edwards says:

    John Edwards is kind of a phony.

    As illustrated by the link…

  8. Jericho says:

    Yes, Edwards is a phony, but Hillary is pretty much evil. What’s more, she brings out the worst in her supporters. See this for example:

    Bullying tactics of Barack Obama against Hillary may be a signal for all women in this country. Watch out!

    WomanVoter at 1/25/2008 12:24PM

    Barack Obama is using bullying tactics in his comments about Hillary. He’s not focusing on what needs to happen here-a healing of racial and sexual wounds that go deep and cause real pain. He is furthering that pain for women. His treatment of Hillary will reflect how he treats womens’ issues if he is elected. He’s a black man who should be accutely aware of the stereotype of black men abusing their women. I don’t want him in power if he can’t behave better than he has been doing.

    This is politics at its dirtiest. Decrying a stereotype while repeating it? Trying to associate it with Obama? I’m appalled as a voter, I’m appalled as a man, I’m appalled as a human being.

  9. 4Petexasake says:

    There is nothing phony about John Edwards! The man is real and genuine in his efforts to help others. You better know someone before you go making such outlandish statements. I know John Edwards, and he is no phony!!

  10. 24hrlib says:

    I think Edwards will come in a strong second on Saturday. His voice is being heard in SC like it was in Iowa. Both states have been known for surprises the MSM never catch.

  11. Eneils Bailey says:

    “There are two America’s.”

    “My Daddy worked at a mill.”

    “Bush is an Asshole.”

    Maybe he should check out Speeching 101, kinda reminds me of 2004, it did not work then, either.

    Putting your political faith in a freshman Senator who would have never been elected to a second term from his home state makes you wonder about the old political theory That “you have to do well here before you can move on.” In 2004, he lost his true home state(SC) and the state he was serving as a US Senator.(NC)(In the General Election)

    Let us move on, the American Public does not want someone as President that knows more about facials, haircare products, and makeup than he knows about foreign policy, economics, and the US Constitution.