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Suburban, rural votes in South Carolina ‘critical’ for Dems

South Carolina primary voters on Saturday viewed "electability" as a leading issue among the field of presidential candidates. Yet differences remained between rural and urban voters over which candidate could best lead the party to victory in 2020. NewsHour Senior Political Reporter Daniel Bush joins Hari Sreenivasan from Columbia, South Carolina with more on the primary.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    NewsHour Political Reporter, Dan Bush, is in Columbia, South Carolina. He joins me now with the latest on the primary there. Dan, you've been there for a few days now. You've talked to different types of communities. What is the, what is the thing that's driving their interest in this primary?

  • Daniel Bush:

    Well, Hari, the number one thing for so many voters is electability. They want to see a Democrat emerge from this crowded primary field, still crowded, with a bunch of people there at the top who can beat president Donald Trump. That's what voters told me again and again across the state in the last couple of days. They want a Democrat who is electable. They all agree on that.

    However, the party voters are still very divided about who they think can do the best job down here in South Carolina. Former Vice President Joe Biden has been leading in polls. There are a lot of voters leaning in his direction, but more progressive voters are still looking at Bernie Sanders here in South Carolina and also Pete Buttigieg as well. Those are the three that are sort of standing out the most. And the billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who has been doing well here as well.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And why his impact, is it just about the amount of money that he's been able to spend on the ground?

  • Daniel Bush:

    That's that's what sources tell me, yeah. And when you're here in South Carolina, he has, his presence is everywhere, in field offices and posters and signage, organizers. So he has put a lot of money into South Carolina. He's put all of his eggs into this basket, so to speak. Really trying to have a strong showing. It is working. He's also blanketing the state with advertising on television. So we've seen him sort of close the gap and move up in the polls in the last couple of weeks, to the point that, at least in last couple of days, he's been polling within 10 points of Sanders. So he could potentially come in third place here, which would be a remarkable showing for someone who's never run for office before.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You know, African-Americans in South Carolina, a lot of them that we've spoken to in the past say, hey, you know what? Politicians come by every four years. They want our votes. They tell us what we want to hear. And then they forget us. Is it any different this time?

  • Daniel Bush:

    It's not, Hari. That's a very good point. I spoke to a lot of African-American voters who said just that. A lot of them are going to support Joe Biden, but they did say, we're not confident that Joe Biden or any Democrat will deliver on the promises that they're making. So there is a sense of almost resignation among black voters. One gentleman told me, 'we're important up until Saturday, today, the primary day, and then we're forgotten,' as you said, for the last four years. So there is a lot of frustration among that voting group who feel, a lot of voters told me, that Democrats sort of take their vote for granted, come down here, get it, and then leave.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Are there specific issues that are driving different parts of the electorate? I mean, it's a, there's lots and lots of South Carolina that are rural and, you know, a few sort of suburbs and exurbs and have a couple of big cities. But really, it's not a very kind of urban-centric state.

  • Daniel Bush:

    That's right. The rural vote here is critical. It's often overlooked in the 2016 Democratic primary. Sixty six percent of the votes cast in South Carolina were cast outside of the three major urban areas of Greenville, Columbia and Charleston. So the suburban and rural vote here is critical, and the issues there are different. They're poorer, less affluent areas where there's not a lot of access to health care in a lot of rural parts of the state. Folks have to drive 30 minutes or longer just to get to a hospital. Transportation issues also big from the perspective a lot of voters I spoke to who said that they have trouble getting to and from work. Education as well. Internet access, you go to rural parts of the state and you see advertisements for Internet everywhere. So there's a lot of sort of basic, basic needs that voters want addressed, which voters in cities, on the other hand, sort of have. Not everybody, of course, but have more coverage. So you see more progressive Democrats in the urban areas who are moving towards Sanders or Warren. And folks out outside of the cities who watch sort of the basic things covered.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right. NewsHour's Dan Bush joining us from Columbia, South Carolina. Hopefully they will not have to keep watching all those ads on TV after tonight there. Thanks for joining us.

  • Daniel Bush:

    Thank you.

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