South Carolina Donors Give the Most to Biden, But His Lead Is Narrowing

Former Vice President Joe Biden is placing his bets on a state that is his stronghold, South Carolina, after placing a distant second in the Nevada caucuses and trailing in the New Hampshire and Iowa contests.

Biden is receiving the largest amount of campaign cash from South Carolina donors compared with his Democratic presidential opponents. Almost 60 percent of Democratic voters in the state are African American, from whom he is known to enjoy strong support.

The former vice president raised over $517,000 from South Carolina donors till the end of last year, topping other primary contenders by a large margin. Former mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg comes in second, raising around $387,000. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is third, receiving almost $378,000.

President Donald Trump leads among all contenders with more than $734,000 in donations from South Carolina residents.

Once a presidential frontrunner, Biden’s campaign has struggled to build momentum as Sanders and Buttigieg made headway in early primaries. Originally projected to sweep the South Carolina contest, Biden’s margins are now narrowing. Biden was projected to win with 35.6 percent of the vote at the beginning of the month; now he’s at 31.2 percent, only five points ahead of Sanders, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls. A surprising entrant in third position is billionaire Tom Steyer at 14.6 percent.

South Carolinians vote Saturday, and the state has witnessed massive ad buys by both presidential campaigns and outside groups on the candidates’ behalf. Ad buys estimated at $16.8 million have been bought by the 2020 hopefuls, according to data from FiveThirtyEight.

Running ads featuring President Barack Obama awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Biden is one of the lowest advertising spenders at less than $270,000. Super PAC Unite the Country, which is backing Biden, has spent over $227,000 in local advertising, according to recent filings.

While Sanders spent only about $84,000 on TV ads, Steyer has spent almost $12 million on advertising in the state –– over 70 percent share of the total money spent by the candidates for advertising. Steyers’ TV ads also feature Obama.

Buttigieg has spent an estimated $960,000, while billionaire Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have spent roughly $1.7 million and $520,000 respectively. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has spent $52,000 on TV ads in the state.

Warren and Klobuchar received support from super PACs ahead of the Nevada contest last week. Warren, who had earlier refused outside money is now being backed by Persist PAC, which is spending almost $1 million in ad buys, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. Kitchen Table Conversations, a super PAC backing Klobuchar, spent more than $930,000.

South Carolina is the last state to hold a contest before Super Tuesday and could be crucial in determining the serious contenders among the eight Democratic presidential candidates. While Biden’s campaign is looking to get a boost in the Palmetto State, Sanders is gaining popularity among black voters, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

“We’re alive and we’re coming back and we’re gonna win,” Biden told supporters in Las Vegas on Saturday.”I think we’re in a position now to move on in a way that we haven’t been until this moment. I think we’re going to win in South Carolina, and then Super Tuesday and we are on our way.”

Meanwhile, several South Carolina Republicans are urging GOP voters to support Sanders. Since South Carolina has open primaries, where voters don’t have to be registered Democrats to cast a ballot, Republicans could vote for the candidate they see as the least challenging for Trump.