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The South Carolina presidential primary is an open primary election which has become one of several key early-state presidential primaries in the process of the Democratic and Republican Parties choosing their respective general election nominees for President of the United States. South Carolina has cemented its place as the "First in the South"[1][2] primary for both parties.

Historically, this primary election has been much more important in the Republican Party's nomination process, considered a "firewall" that could permanently eliminate any/all serious rivals to the winner.[3] It is meant to force the various factions of the party to decide quickly on and unite behind a single candidate and avoid wasting precious time and resources on a drawn-out battle between their own candidates, that would divert the party's focus from working to defeat the Democrats' likely nominee. Since its 1980 inception, the winner of the Republican South Carolina primary has always become the eventual Republican National Convention nominee for that fall's general election,[4] with one exception, the 2012 primary, in which eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney finished second, behind winner Newt Gingrich (who would go on to suspend his campaign before that summer's convention began).

South Carolina has also been important for the Democrats. In 2008, the Democratic South Carolina primary took on added significance because it was the first nominating contest in that cycle in which a large percentage (55 percent, according to an exit poll[5]) of primary voters were African Americans.[6] In 2020, it was also described as a "firewall" for Joe Biden, where he had considerable leverage over his opponents, particularity with African American voters.[7]

Democratic results

Republican results


  1. ^ "5 Things to Watch in South Carolina's Republican Primary". ABC Newa. February 20, 2016. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  2. ^ "South Carolina's Key Role in the Presidential Race". U.S. News & World Report. February 17, 2016. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  3. ^ Scherer, Michael (January 9, 2008). "Huckabee Looks to South Carolina". TIME. Archived from the original on January 12, 2008. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  4. ^ Rudin, Ken (January 16, 2008). "South Carolina's Role as GOP Kingmaker". NPR. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  5. ^ "Election Center 2008: Primary Exit Polls - Elections & Politics news from". Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  6. ^ "January 7, 2008". The Nation. January 7, 2008. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  7. ^ "Joe Biden's firewall held in South Carolina. Here's how he won". The State. March 1, 2020.
  8. ^ "Jackson's Triumph in South Carolina Illustrates Dramatic Change Since Vote in '84". New York Times. March 14, 1988. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  9. ^ "THE 1992 CAMPAIGN: South Carolina; Bush and Clinton Score Big Victories". New York Times. March 8, 1992. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  10. ^ "2000 Democratic Presidential Caucus Results - South Carolina". Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  11. ^ "Primary Results by State - Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  12. ^ "South Carolina Primary Election Results - Election Guide 2008 - Results - The New York Times". Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  13. ^ Graham, David A. "Donald Trump Wins the South Carolina Primary - The Atlantic". Retrieved January 13, 2023.