Professor Scott Huffmon and the Latest Winthrop Poll Results

Professor Scott Huffmon and the Latest Winthrop Poll Results

Welcome to This Week in South
Carolina. I’m Gavin Jackson. with over four months between
now and the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary.
Candidates continue to visit the Palmetto State to gain support from the first of the South
Carolina primary voters. According to the most recent
Winthrop Poll, front runner Joe Biden continues to lead. But
over one third of participants are still undecided South Carolina voters remain
engaged and attentive to the still large field of
democratic candidates. There’s some candidates who have
consistently polled low in the state. Continue to make
minor incursions into the important early voting state
that touts diverse electorate that is critical to the
Democratic Party, an electorate that polling shows
is still strongly supporting former vice president Joe Biden.
Who has deep connections to the state and name ID, thanks to
his eight years serving President Barack Obama. Biden has maintained a twenty
point plus lead over candidates. But with proportional delegates
in South Carolina, second place is still important in one area were Senator
Elizabeth Warren has settled in in the last three polls over
Senator Bernie Sanders. But Warren has only recently
ramped up her appearances in the state, which draw big crowds
that are primarily white, an issue all cannons are having
problems with in a state where sixty percent
of the Democratic electorate is black. At a recent Warren rally one voter
summed up the field like this. …because I think the Bernie’s
to old and Biden’s too limited. And I think that a
certain amount of dirt will stick to him even if it
shouldn’t. And we need every vote we can to
make, this cannot be a close election. Despite a divided field,
electability is one thing that many Democrats can unite behind.
Forty two percent said the ability to beat President
Donald Trump is more important than a candidate who shares
their views. But they’re still four months of
for voters to make up their minds. And no shortage of
candidates visiting the state. In fact some fifty percent say
they may change their minds before the February twentieth
primary. Joining us to look at the latest
results of the Winthrop poll is Poll Director and Winthrop
Political Science Professor Scott Huffman. Scott welcome
back. Thank you, my pleasure. So we just got that poll done
recently. Tell us a little bit of an overview about what you
saw in the results. It’s surveyed not only Democrats
but also Republicans. But kind of overall what we saw specifically in the democratic
field. Sure let me back up a little bit
on two instances. we we we sort of felt obligated
to go to go into the field. We’re the only South Carolina
polling entity that’s been named the
threshold poll. And you know that means that in
order to be allowed to participate in the Democratic
Presidential Debates, you have to either raise certain amounts
of money or get a certain threshold in named polls,
like you know Fox News, CNN, ours, Quinnipiac. And we hadn’t done one. And so
we felt a little guilty So we we kind of owed one and we
had to get it done by October first for it to… Excuse me. …count for the
October fifteenth debate. Now backing up, if
it’s just about Democrats why do we you know poll some
Republicans as well? And that has a lot to do with
how we do things in South Carolina. We are a open
primary state technically semi open. You
have to declare which one you’re voting in. But that means we don’t have
data on who registered Democrats are. Because you don’t
register as a Democrat. So what we do know is who’s registered
to vote. We know all the demographics. So if we poll people who are
registered to vote and then ask them you know are you a Democrat,
Republican, Independent or leans Democrat or Republican, we can
then create a profile of what people who are registered but
identify as Democrats look like. We have to do that first before
we then can get any extra Democrats. So you can’t
just, you know only poll people who
voted in the last primary or or whatever. You can supplement
that but only after you’ve screened the blay
entire registered voters and determined sort of that
demographic. So that’s but you know because
we also had some Republicans we got to play around with a couple
of extra questions. But so that that’s how we
ended up getting you know a poll
where we had enough Democrats from South Carolina
who are voters to be able to say okay this is where it stands in
South Carolina right now. And you know as I think
everybody knows right now, Joe Biden is of course well in the
league. Yeah,
thirty some percent Biden seventeen percent Warren,
Sanders eight Senator Harris at seven percent. And that’s been
pretty consistent for Joe Biden. I mean not only I mean
specifically here in South Carolina he’s maintained the
twenty points sum average in these polls, other states
like Iowa and New Hampshire a little
bit closer. But again he’s kind of calling
South Carolina his firewall. And it’s looking like it is a
true firewall at this point. Is that what the polling’s
reinforcing? I I think you’re
right it would be will have to be. He will have to
maintain that large lead here. And one of the primary reasons
he’s he’s has that lead is the African American vote.
You know again this is why the first in the south
primary matters so much. We look more like, You know our Democratic primary
looks more like Democrats and more important for Republicans
because our Republican primary looks more like national
Republicans. So think of who core Democratic
supporters are nationally. Right Now in the Census Latinos
Hispanics are now larger nationally than African
Americans. But African
Americans vote Democratic to the tune of ninety percent.
Where as Hispanics and Latinos goes up and down. It’s certainly
not near ninety. So African Americans are a core
constituency to the degree, And
you know when of course liberal whites. And if you’re White and a Democrat in South
Carolina these days, you’re likely to be a little
more Liberal. So by coming to South Carolina, you are really looking at the
people you A have to get to support you but B
have to excite, in order to win nationally. So in Iowa it’s ninety seven
percent White. Joe Biden’s you know has good has a lot more
competition. New Hampshire again,
totally different. Coming down here, what matters the most is who
women and African Americans support. Women will make up over sixty
percent of the Presidential Primary. African Americans make
up over sixty percent. Black women are actually the
crown jewel of the Democratic Presidential Primary. So because of his association
with Obama he’s a known entity and he’s trusted. Now if you
think back to the to Biden’s you know past.
You know nineteen eighty eight when he’s
you know using British politician Neil
Kinnock’s biography of his own and
plagiarizing. And you know the Anita Hill’s
of and all you know and in even in two thousand
and seven when he’s running against Barack Obama and
calling him clean and articulate and…Yeah. You know that not so much. He
has been reinvented in the mind of African American voters as
the loyal supporter of Barack Obama. So he comes into this
with name recognition and trust among black voters. How much of that can be eroded by his opponents
is another question. So as as he comes in, he starts
off the overwhelmingly ahead in
South Carolina. You know trust is very important to
African American voters in South Carolina. If you look at
‘Hey what’s more important, somebody who shares your views or can beat Trump?’
Liberal whites. Beat Trump. They just want to beat Trump. African Americans it’s more
evenly split. Because they want to know that it’s somebody they
can believe in. And right now because of the
imprintor of Obama, that’s Joe Biden. That can
be whittled away at, but that’s going to take time.
We’re still five months out. And at this point in
two thousand and seven, Hillary Clinton was
significantly, well not to signifi- Hillary Clinton was
sizeable ahead of Barack Obama. And just kind of talking about
that, we’ll definitely go back to the role that’s South
Carolina plays in those kind of tie breakers. And the
President we said, But I’m wondering you
know when you look at these other candidates in the
race, I’ve been at all these press gaggles with these
candidates. And the number one question from South Carolina
reporters is always about the black vote. We know it’s not
monolithic. You know you it’s it’s obviously split. But there’s a lot up
for grabs there. And I’m just wondering, when these candidates
see just how well Joe Biden has consistently been doing in South
Carolina do they do they still have to keep throwing
everything they can at South Carolina? I mean how much
more do keep investing in a state where it’s kind of maybe clear that there’s a favorite
here? Or do we or do you keep hoping that things might change or
could be some sort of movement out of Iowa
that can project them in South Carolina
or there could be any number of things happening that could make them more viable
in the future? Well it’s you know the strategy
depends on which tier you’re in really. And South
Carolina can be I think the final hope for some of those especially low but mid tier
candidates. So Kamala Harris’s
support in South Carolina basically has doubled. Now it’s
still single digits, right? But it’s it’s
basically doubled. And so that showing that okay folks are beginning to get to
know who she is. You know a lot of outsiders. Like why aren’t
the two, your these these two black candidates Cory Booker
and Kamala Harris why aren’t they getting more support? And
again it’s as you pointed out black voters are not monolithic
and they don’t just vote for somebody because they’re also
black. That’s you know that’s not. They’re very sophisticated
voters as anybody else. and so these people have to get known
and Kamala Harris is getting it more known among African
American voters. So this can be a strategy for her, that once
her name recognition starts going up and awareness starts
going up, if she can kind of get into that top tier
after Iowa maybe New Hampshire that could begin to
change things now. You know some of the others are
only going to have a chance to barely hang in. You know
Tulsi Gabbard has spent a good bit of
money down here. And it has not paid off in the way you thought. So you know, folks
like us who are paying attention watching and it’s
like, ‘Okay we have not seen a you
know a third tier candidate spending
this much money in a state.’ We’ve seen signs where we didn’t
really expect em, billboards… has not paid off. And honestly I was surprised.
I thought, look at this stage its name
recognition and you know this is getting name
recognition. Well, apparently Tom Steyer
is doing a better job of that because you know if
I’m in South Carolina and open up You Tube I see a Tom Steyer ad. Right now if I’m
out of state it’s different. So apparently he’s
found a better way to get some name recognition. Do you think
that’s probably from his like need to impeach ads that he had been rolling out before he
was even a candidate versus some other some other candidates who
are lower tier? Because he really hasn’t,
not to I know a poll after your poll, the Fox News poll should have
been four percent which was tied with
I think Kamala Harris too. So I mean he’s really changed.
He’s really upped his game after just announcing in August
essentially and he’s kind of coming for these other… I
I think you’re right. I think that that those are the reasons
people saw those ads. They saw that name. And you know all
of a sudden they’re like oh I know that name, which goes
back to the point that at this stage we, it’s it’s not
singularly name recognition anymore like it was
a couple months ago. but the residue of name
recognition is there. I think especially as Elizabeth
Warren pushes her new strategy focusing on not just African
American, but African American women
stronger, we might see some some pulling
away. And depending on concerns over you know Bernie Sanders
health among Whites we might see some of the
progressive Whites moving from Bernie to Warren. And just kind of sticking with
Elizabeth Warren, she was actually up in your neck of the woods in Rock
Hill the other day. Big crowd, big turnout it was
her first time doing a campaign event in South Carolina for some
forty days. So it’s kind of interesting to see how she took her time to come back to
South Carolina especially if they’re such support for her.
And she is number two in your poll there. But
I’m wondering you know I saw a tweet from Bakari Sellers, who
is with Kamala Harris’ campaign saying you know she’s doing the Bernie Sanders
twenty sixteen strategy where it’s you’re in these big crowds
but you’re parachuting in. And you’re parachuting and then
you’re not really engaging the people on the
ground as much. So do you think that’s
the case or do you think that maybe they’re trying to organize
more? I mean maybe were we have five months, you really kinda
have to have that ground game ready to go should you come out Iowa hot or New
Hampshire hot. Right. And I and I think she is
building a ground game a little more quietly with you know
with staff. Bakari but he has you know
his reasons for doing it obviously.
He’s not necessarily wrong in that that
some what of what you’ve been doing as opposed to a more to
sort of pounding the earth and you know in in every tiny little
small hamlet. You know when you
look at Rock Hill, you you know every candidate eventually comes
through Winthrop. But they also all ways choose at one point for
the Democrats. Now we get all the candidates of all
parties. But the Democrats
always stop by the largest black church
and often stop at where she stopped Clinton Junior
College, which is African American. But did you notice the
crowd. Predominately White. It was overwhelmingly White. So many other candidates have
been yes. Exactly right and so you look at her numbers between you know the
difference between White Democrats and Black Democrats.
And her support among Whites is so much higher than it is among
African Americans She’s got to change that. Otherwise you know that’s the the thing
that that Bernie saw. Bernie saw you
know all these these campaigns in South Carolina where they
would just be overwhelmingly things. Well okay fine. But two thousand people when you
know hundreds of thousands are going
to vote, doesn’t make a difference. And
plus half of them would have license
plates from North Carolina or from Georgia. And you know what did he get you
know get stomped by seventy points. I mean so that is you know the parachuting
in doesn’t win. But if you have a ground game and
you start focusing your message, Bernie thought that his message
would simply play to African Americans. Well of course
they’ll just jump on my message like my Bernie bros did. That’s not the case. It’s trust.
Trust and message have to go
hand in glove. Do you think people also aren’t paying attention yet still? I
mean it’s everywhere. There’s so much going on the news cycle. Do
you think people I mean do you have a Saturday, a nice
Saturday night in October? Are you going to go to a
rally?What else is going on (laughter) in the news cycle? There’s something else that
might be taking…Just a few things Scott day to day. Right. But I’m just wondering
you know it’s gonna be we see that bump after Labor Day. It’s gonna be colder, people
probably indoors more. They might be watching TV more. They might start paying
attention, but I’m just thinking, I go
to a lot of these different rallies and crowds are all put
on a White for the most part, for all the candidates it seems.
Like even Joe Biden. Even though he has the highest
black voter support. I’m just wondering is it just
people, ‘Hey I’m paying attention from
afar. I’m just not seeing these rallies per say.’ If you if you
look at these rallies not only are they, we can see their
overwhelmingly White. I would guarantee if we were to
actually you know poll them, the ones there, it
would be there’d be disproportionately higher
education, disproportionately higher income. These are in
general the richer, more Liberal, more
educated among the Democrats. Right? I mean you got, Let’s be honest the the
working class White Democrats are at a job all day. So I mean it’s the mull of the
day sometimes people are working They they don’t necessarily
represent the folks that are going to come out. So it may
look like a huge crowd but it’s not really the same crowd who’s
going to actually vote. So your point is
correct that the the people who are truly
going to vote a lot of them were just stretching and not
those antenna now to start receiving the signals of who is there and what they’re
saying. So we’re just now getting to the
point beyond name recognition. Yeah and I kinda want
to stick with that too and and get to some of the
things but I want to add that you know fifty two percent of
the people you guys surveyed, said they might change their
mind – Right – come February twenty ninth. You have strong
numbers but half of em are thinking, Hey! might change my
mind so I mean that’s a nice little curve ball
there. And it probably gives a lot of
those other candidates hope that Hey we can work on these people,
right? You always got one consultant
whose entire income depends on this guy who’s pointing to that
number. They’re all going to switch to
you. (laughter) I need that job. You gotta remember that fifty two percent who could
change their mind, a chunk won’t and of the rest
who do are going to go in many different directions. But
if you are those third tier candidates you have have to hope that your the
one who’s going to pick em up, which back to a question I said
earlier. Why keep spending money here, that’s why? That’s going
to get you into the debate, on the stage and get you in the
debates, so that come Iowa you’ll do better. Right so again it’s which
strategy of how much money and how to direct in South Carolina?
It depends on which tier you’re in. And Scott just tying to jump
into the debates. We have seen the field gets smaller this
upcoming debate. There should be twelve candidates onstage
Tuesday October fifteenth. There’e going to be eight that
didn’t make the cut. So is this a better approach you think having these
these requirements, these poll requirements, fundraiser
requirements to get on these stages to help maybe
whittle the field to help kind of concentrate the message
for people? Well I mean whether it’s better
or not, I’m I’m
not partisan, so I’m not sure you know internally whether it’s
helping them or not. I do know as an
observer it’s having a cacophony of people up there who at the best moment can only
get in a quip and you know and and
a phrase or of you know a bad a bad statement, you know
and and get hurt by it. That’s that doesn’t give us any
information. It doesn’t get to show off people’s, the way they
intellectually can work through a question and come to okay this
is what the policy I would have and why. You get a few
seconds to say something pithy that you hope voters remember. You know you’re
hoping it’s the I knew Jack Kennedy. You’re no Jack Kennedy
you know. You’re hoping to to recreate that. But it’s just a
mess to watch. (laughter) You know and So what are you
gonna be watching for then on Tuesday? It depends on
whether I’m alone or with friends (laughter) So one one time I
had a group of friends over and we were watching it and I mean
it, don’t know if you’ve ever seen Mystery Science
Theater Three Thousand. But you know we were just hurling you
know. What are you thinking? Because there’s very
little of substance. However the attack lines
while unpleasant to watch are always important to watch. That
that tells you who each candidate thinks is the biggest
threat, or who they think they can peel
the most voters from. So looking at the lines of
attack obviously they’re going to be against the front runners,
right? Obviously Joe Biden’s gonna be you know, in
everybody’s sights. But how how they choose to go
after the people who are also in their tier is really important. And going after the the you know like the
Warren and the Sanders, the tax they choose to take
cause you where they think policy-wise
they can peel support from. With twelve people
on stage there still just not going to be a lot. you can do. And then you know
fast forwarding to the primary February twenty ninth here in
South Carolina, a lot of these candidates seem
like will have enough money to make it to that primary. So I’m
thinking we’re going to have a couple people on our on our
ballot, especially when you look at the
third core numbers, with Bernie Sanders bringing twenty five
million, Warren twenty four point six. Buttigieg nineteen
point one, Biden fifteen point two, and Harris eleven point
six. All that in the millions. And I’m just wondering, that
that’s the strong third quarter numbers for a lot of those
people especially Mayor Pete Buttigieg who again is kind of
like this phenomenon on the state I’m the on the
stage right now. But when you have Joe Biden, it kind of, what is he in fourth
right there in fundraising? Is that worrisome when you have a
front runner at least in South Carolina whose really hammering
it home but then not maybe getting the fundraising needs to
support it? What it what does money buy? In that, it has all, – Name
recognition. – Right! So you know basically you can
imagine, he doesn’t have to spend a dime on name
recognition, where as Pete Buttigieg does. I mean you know
most people have trouble pronouncing Buttigieg right
now. Right? You know nobody has
problems saying Biden. You know Heck! It’s Uncle Joe. But
then I’m guessing maybe counter messaging for what the Trump
campaign’s been thrown at em, just based on Ukraine and
impeachment and stuff like that. Right! But that again That’s sort of earned media
for him. You know to his base it just looks like, you know they’re trying to make
up anything. Because they’re afraid. So even that is not
necessarily hurting him. Although, his opponents are
going to go at this saying he’s he’s weak. he has things Trump could attack
on. I don’t. So you know the the fundraising, you know it be better if he had
more always. But I don’t think it’s immediately worrisome for
him because Pete Buttigieg has to have more
so that people know who he is. Biden doesn’t have
to buy that. So as it goes on, Biden easily can stay in
through South Carolina. Right? Buttigieg needs to do
well in Iowa. And he will do better in Iowa than he’s doing
right now in South Carolina. He’ll do better where there’s
more Liberal Whites you know in Iowa in New Hampshire. And he needs that momentum to do better in South Carolina
that he’s doing now. And just we have like less than five minutes
left but I want to talk about winning South Carolina.
Can you come in second place, third place in South Carolina
still be viable depending I guess maybe how you did in
Iowa and New Hampshire? Or is it pretty much lights out? No, no, no, no!
Again because especially if there’s a lot of
people in, the proportional
nature of the Democratic Primary where even if you lose
you get some delegates. You can you know come in second,
come in second and begin to build. And as long as you have some
super strong showings later on, right? Especially as there’s
attrition of the final folks. You know of the folks that come
in twentieth each time, then you can begin to build
delegates over and above that first place.
So you are not out. And in fact sometimes coming in
second can make you a
champion. Bill Clinton was called the
‘Comeback Kid’ because of New Hampshire. He did not win New Hampshire. He
came in second. And so what it was was coming
from so far behind, all the way up to second. And again in a lot of the
Republican primaries it’s winner take all. So second place is the same as
twelfth place. It doesn’t matter That’s not the case in in most
of the Democratic. If you’re not first, you’re
last, right? (laughter) For the voters, absolutely!
And just kind of looking at that. Then also Bernie Sanders
had a heart attack recently. But also had on the same day
had these massive numbers coming out. What are we watching for in
Bernie Sanders. I mean we’ll will will polling dictate maybe
how he goes forward? Do you think that could hurt him if people all of a sudden say
maybe he won’t be as strong of a candidate at seventy eight
years old. Well two things, Maybe it. I think
it makes them more aware of the age thing but then the
question is if they’re more concerned about
the age thing how does that affect both Biden and Warren, who I believe all in
their seventies. Then second it’s sort of okay,
if I still support Bernie, wow I’m really concerned
about this Vice President, to be honest. So that
might change things up a little bit. I don’t think
Bernie sees a problem with
his messaging and I know his core supporters don’t. And so I don’t see
him changing that that that much up, where as Elizabeth
Warren I think has learned especially from Obama in 07′. Messaging in South Carolina has to go in certain directions
in certain ways. She seems to be starting to change that up.
We’ll see if she follows through but other than
than Bernie maybe having, you know, having some photo ops of I don’t know, lifting weights,
jumping or whatever he’s gonna do to prove he’s in good health.
I don’t see him changing a strategy that much. And just thirty seconds left. What are
you watching for the next few months until we have you back on
this show, here in South Carolina? What are we looking
out for? First off, can Biden’s lead in South Carolina
among African Americans be eaten in as people get name
recognition for other candidates and their message? Where does
Kamala Harris go and what’s happening with Cory Booker
especially if you’re not gonna come to South Carolina and eat
barbecue? So much to look at and we didn’t
even talk about Republicans or their primary or Mark Sanford or
Lindsey Graham. So we’re gonna have to wait till next year,
hopefully. Maybe this Fall we’ll see. Scott, thank you so much for
joining us this week. And thank you for joining us. Also check out the South
Carolina Lede. It’s the political podcast that
can be found on your podcast app on any mobile
device. Each week, I recap the weekly political news with
reporters to cover it. From the Kennedy Greenhouse
Studio on the campus of the University of South Carolina,
I’m Gavin Jackson.

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