Joe Biden called his fourth-place finish in Iowa a “gut punch” here on Wednesday. For Deval Patrick, it just might be an opportunity, reports Politico.
While Patrick crisscrosses New Hampshire in the days before the first-in-the-nation primary, his allies are setting their sights two states further down the calendar. Patrick supporters say South Carolina, a Southern state whose Democratic primary is dominated by black voters, is where the former Massachusetts governor could make an unlikely splash after months of trying to jump-start his late, long-shot presidential bid.
Biden has long been the frontrunner in South Carolina. But if the former vice president has another underwhelming performance in New Hampshire on Tuesday, it could damage his South Carolina firewall. The latest polls put Biden in third place in New Hampshire, behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Ind.
Reason to Believe has reserved well over $600,000 in airtime in South Carolina — $253,000 in Charleston, $246,000 in Columbia and $186,000 in Greenville, and more cash is on the way, according to a supporter of the super PAC who declined to be named — but predicted that Patrick would finish first or second in the state, which votes Feb. 29.
It’s a bold statement to make on behalf of a presidential candidate who is hardly registering in the polls. But Patrick is the only black candidate left in the 2020 primary and only the second elected black governor in American history. That could help his standing among the majority of South Carolina’s Democratic voters who are black.
But Patrick is not the only candidate who sees opportunity in the first Southern primary. Tom Steyer, a billionaire businessman, has been spending millions on television and digital ads there. Steyer’s campaign announced on Thursday that he will travel to South Carolina on Sunday to host a block party, and will hold a town hall in the state on Monday.
The decision to leave New Hampshire in the critical two days leading up to the primary, when the other candidates will put an emphasis on retail politics, is a sign Steyer sees opportunity elsewhere, potentially from the same potential shakiness in Biden’s campaign that Patrick is eyeing. Polling still puts Biden in first place in South Carolina, followed by Sanders and Steyer.
But while Steyer has millions of his own dollars to spend spreading his name, name recognition is one of Patrick’s biggest challenges: After his second term as governor, he left public life to work at Bain Capital.
The Reason to Believe ad buy comes as at least one other candidate frees up some space on the airwaves. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren canceled a $350,000 flight in Nevada and South Carolina from Feb. 17 to Feb. 23. Warren told reporters she’s being “careful” with her money during a campaign stop in Nashua on Wednesday.