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Biden plans swing through South Carolina, in early glimpse at 2024 campaign


(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are planning a campaign swing through South Carolina ahead of the state’s Feb. 3 primary, Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told ABC News.

While details of the campaign trip are still coming together, Biden’s decision to head to South Carolina offers a first glimpse into his 2024 schedule, which is set to include an early visit to a state that was key to his White House path but which is not expected to be important in next year’s general election.

South Carolina has, however, become increasingly important to the national party after Biden’s 2020 primary win there sent a big signal that Democratic voters were on their way to nominating him for president.

The DNC then reshuffled its presidential primary calendar starting with 2024 — elevating South Carolina, with its large share of Black voters, to the first state to vote while demoting Iowa and New Hampshire, which national Democrats argue are not representative of their voter base or of the country, despite sharp outcry from both states.

“No one can be the Democratic nominee without the support of our electorate,” the South Carolina Democratic chair, Christale Spain, said at a press conference in Columbia on Monday.

“For the first time ever, Black voters, rural voters and Southern voters will get to have their voices heard first in this process,” Spain said.

Harrison, the national chairman, told ABC News that Democrats plan to place a heavy emphasis on South Carolina as 2024 gets underway. (New Hampshire is going ahead with its January primary regardless, citing state law, but Biden won’t participate and its delegates have been stripped.)

“South Carolina between now and Feb. 3 is going to be a hot bed for Democratic politics,” Harrison said. “The state party is working to build out a number of events and operations. So I’m really excited about it. I think people will start to feel what it means to be first in the nation very, very soon.”

Democrats plan a “first in the nation” statewide bus tour in the state on Jan. 13 which includes a six-figure investment into the state to help drive up interest from the base.

“South Carolina picks presidents,” Spain said on Monday.

She also said that the public should “expect to see” the president in the state although she did not specify when.

The president has so far largely limited his political travel to general-election battlegrounds like Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania while also attending fundraisers in Democratic strongholds like California.

Harrison, a South Carolina native, said that putting South Carolina first in the primary calendar not only gives Black Americans “a seat at the table but the opportunity to actually set the menu.”

“You think about the influence that Iowa and New Hampshire have had on presidential candidates and, eventually, president for the last 50 years — now you’re giving an opportunity for Black folks to have that influence,” Harrison told ABC News.

Biden nominally faces a contested primary in South Carolina, from relatively unknown candidates like Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson, though polling shows Biden far ahead. Some Black South Carolinians said they had hoped for a more competitive primary to win their vote.

“I don’t feel like we’ve gotten the national attention that New Hampshire and Iowa would have gotten. So I’m a little disappointed about that. But it’s our first time, so we’ll give him a little bit of southern grace,” Angela Geter of Spartanburg told ABC News.

Jermaine Johnson, who lives in Lower Richland, however, feels that this is just a chance to “work out the kinks” for the next election.

“I think we’ll have everything worked out and we’ll be able to give a robust primary,” he said.

There is no guarantee that South Carolina will keep its primary spot in 2028. The DNC will reevaluate the calendar every four years. State Democrats say they are determined to hold onto their spot, which means minimizing mistakes that could jeopardize their new position.

Back in July, Spain, the state chair, launched Project Roadmap, a committee with activists, community leaders and elected officials from across South Carolina dedicated to recruiting, training and electing Democrats up and down the ballot in a state that has increasingly trended conservative.

“Iowa and New Hampshire, they’re my friends,” a former leader of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Carol Fowler, told ABC News. “But they do represent just a part of the Democratic Party, just the white people in the Democratic Party. And that’s just not all of us. I think this is an opportunity for every kind of Democrat to speak.”

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