Who Won The 2016 South Carolina Primary? With Super Tuesday Looming, Bernie Sanders Could ‘Win’ While Still Losing On Saturday

Who won the 2016 South Carolina primary?

The answer is both easy and incredibly complex, depending on the definition of a win and what it means in the larger context of the race for the Democratic nomination. There is little suspense in terms of the race itself. Hillary Clinton has maintained a big lead in the polls over challenger Bernie Sanders and has advantages in demographics. South Carolina has a large contingent of black voters, a key group where she has consistently out-performed Sanders.

But with Super Tuesday looming, Bernie Sanders may be able to score a win of sorts in the 2016 South Carolina primary even while Hillary Clinton had a higher number of votes. He is in dire need of momentum heading into what could be a decisive vote on Tuesday, when several large states take to the polls and a less than stellar performance could all but end his presidential bid.


[UPDATE: Hillary Clinton has been projected as the winner of the South Carolina primary by a resounding margin]

So what would it take for Bernie Sanders to “win” in the 2016 South Carolina primary? As Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight noted, simply performing above his benchmarks would be seen as a positive outcome.

“In Nevada, however, Sanders came within 5 percentage points of his benchmark. And what if Sanders loses South Carolina by 25 percentage points, as polls now have it? That’s only slightly behind his benchmark of a 20-point loss. It might not seem like it on the surface, but by these numbers, he’s been gaining ground.”

Bernie Sanders had been working to increase his name recognition in South Carolina leading up to Saturday’s primary, MSNBC reported. After admitting back in November that “80 to 90 percent of the people in South Carolina didn’t even know who Bernie Sanders was,” he said on Friday that his campaign has made major inroads.


“When we first came here, we knew very few people,” Sanders told a half-empty gymnasium. “But in the last nine months, we have come a very long way, and that’s because of your support.”

The 2016 South Carolina primary results will also show whether Bernie Sanders has been able to bring younger voters to the polls. His appeal with black voters has been particularly strong among the younger crowd, where his messages of decriminalizing marijuana and supporting a $15 minimum wage have resonated strongly.

As the Los Angeles Times noted, this crowd has been among his most vocal supporters.

“‘He’s unfiltered, which is great,’ said [LeAndrea] Montgomery, 27, pausing during a recent daylong summit on empowering black youth, held on the campus of South Carolina State University.

Hillary Clinton is an overwhelming favorite to win Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic primary, in large part because of the loyalty of African American voters, who could make up half or more of the primary electorate.

“But as Montgomery suggests, there is a generation gap between older blacks and younger African Americans, many of whom are gravitating to Sanders. The same generational divide exists among Latinos and white liberals.”

But even Bernie Sanders supporters have admitted that there is a lot to overcome.

“The hard part is getting beyond the Clinton brand. The Clinton brand is a bit like Coca-Cola. You know, it’s a Southern brand. Everybody knows it. It tastes good,” former NAACP chairman Ben Jealous, who is supporting Sanders, told the Washington Post.

So while the question of who won the 2016 South Carolina primary will likely be answered relatively quickly after polls close at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, the real winner might be revealed in the results for Super Tuesday.

[Picture by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]