Civics 101: The South Carolina Primary



The Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary have come and gone and for those of you not keeping score, Mitt Romney became the first non-incumbent to win back-to-back contests. Though Romney’s path to the nomination is becoming increasingly likely, he faces a significant challenge in the South Carolina primary. As if trying to woo tea party activists and evangelical conservatives wasn’t enough of a challenge for Romney, his status as the front-runner is going to make him a bigger target for his opponents and Super PACs.

Those of you who read our post about the Iowa Caucus might be wondering what the difference is between a caucus and a primary; let’s take a closer look.

As we’ve stated before, primaries and caucuses serve similar roles in the nomination process: citizens vote in either a primary or a caucus to determine how many delegates are going to represent their preferred candidate at the national convention.

Although the results are the same, the process is different: in primaries citizens vote for their preferred candidate the same way they vote in general elections. In South Carolina, the winner receives half of the delegates and the remaining delegates are awarded to the candidate who wins each of South Carolina’s congressional districts.

In a caucus, candidates are awarded delegates in a more roundabout way. Citizens elect delegates to the county convention, who in turn, elect delegates to the state convention who ultimately send delegates to the national convention. The end result is the same; it just takes longer for a caucus to play out.

The South Carolina primary is important because it is the “First in the South.” The South Carolina primary is considered to be a “firewall” that weeds out candidates who are not considered to be viable candidates in a general election. (Fun fact: from its inception until the 2000 elections, the Republican who has won the primary in South Carolina has gone on to win the nomination). —Erick Pleitez

Blog originally published January 19, 2012.

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