GOP official: ‘Panic starting to set in’ among South Carolina Democrats

Ahead of the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29, some Democrats both in the state and across the country are starting to worry that Sen. Bernie Sanders might secure the nomination, says the state’s Republican chairman Drew McKissick. 

“What I'm seeing around the state, quite frankly, is just a lot of panic beginning to set in as far as among Democrats in the state and nationally in terms of Bernie Sanders' chance of actually winning the Democratic nomination here in South Carolina,” McKissick told Yahoo Finance.

McKissick said this panic – as Democrats scramble to “stop” Bernie Sanders – is a win-win situation for Republicans.

If Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, McKissick said, “Christmas comes early” for the Republicans, echoing a sentiment among many in the GOP (and elsewhere) who believe Sanders is too far left to capture enough moderate Democratic votes to beat President Trump.

“If they steal the nomination from him, his base is going to check out and not work hard, and it's still going to be good for us,” he said. “So heads, we win. Tails, they lose.”

Biden’s firewall

Despite any fears that Democrats may have in the state that Sanders will win in the primary, support for former Vice President Joe Biden has spiked in the last few days. Biden currently has a 20-point lead over Sanders, with billionaire Tom Steyer trailing in third.

McKissick believes that Biden will win in the South Carolina primary, but says “it’s an issue at this point of what his margin is going to be, if it’s going to be what it needs to be.”

“If he loses here, then he's done, stick a fork in him,” McKissick said. “If he doesn't win by anything respectable here, quite frankly, he's going to limp through Super Tuesday. And I think that's really the danger that they're looking at right now.”

Biden is hoping for a “firewall” in South Carolina, shored up by support from black voters. McKissick said this could be the “only thing” to “save” him as a candidate. But, he sees support behind Sanders, particularly from black workers.

“That's the problem that Biden has.”

But, McKissick said, with an economy doing well and unemployment at its lowest levels, that more black voters will find a Trump presidency appealing. 

“I think the president got about 8% of the black vote in the 16 cycle. I'm, you know, completely confident we're going to be in double digits in the coming election,” he said.

No Democrat I’d ‘waste a vote on’

According to South Carolina Chamber of Commerce CEO Ted Pitts, many South Carolinians feel that they must vote for Trump, even if reluctantly. McKissick echoed the sentiment, describing a Democratic official who plans to switch to the Republican party.

“That's just a microcosm of some of the other stuff we've seen around the state,” he said.

He added that business people in the state want “absolutely no part of this,” referring to Democrats and their progressive policies around wealth taxes, healthcare which he sees as driving them away from the party.

After a poor showing on the debate stage last week, Bloomberg isn’t a concern to the Republican party, McKissick said, calling the debacle “$400 million being flushed down the toilet,” and the “biggest strategic blunder” of his campaign. 

And while many Republicans in the state say they plan to vote on Bernie Sanders in the primary (South Carolina doesn’t require party registration to vote in the primaries), McKissick said it’s not a strategy the South Carolina GOP officially supports.

“Any voter is free to vote in any party's primary,” he said. “You know, I for one don't see a Democrat on that side of the street that I'd want to waste a vote on.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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