With other Democratic candidates focusing their efforts on Iowa and New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is betting heavily on South Carolina, whose primary doesn't fall until the end of February, giving the latecomer extra days to make his case for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"There's still plenty of time in South Carolina," Gibbs Knotts, a political science professor at the College of Charleston, told The Boston Globe.
Patrick campaigned in South Carolina for President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign and may see some opportunity in the state, where two-thirds of Democratic voters are African-American. In addition, South Carolina's less expensive media market may help the former governor's campaign stretch its budget for a wider reach than it would have in New Hampshire and Iowa.
Analysts, however, said that Patrick won't automatically win votes because he is black.
"South Carolina voters are much more complex than just going with someone based off of the fact that they look like them," said Rania Jamison, a political consultant.
He's also entering a race where former Vice President Joe Biden holds a clear lead. According to a Quinnipiac poll of South Carolina likely voters this week, Biden leads with 33% support, followed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (13%) and Bernie Sanders of Vermont (11%). Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey are polling at 3% and 2%, respectively.
The same poll also showed that 18% of voters are undecided, which Patrick's campaign manager Abe Rakov said shows there is an opening for Patrick.
The former governor made five campaign stops in South Carolina this past week, more than in any of the other four states he visited. His events were small and he spoke mainly to people of color, including at a historically black college and at restaurants.
State Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson said this year marks the first election since 2008 where candidates have been campaigning in the black community rather than from outside, making it an "exciting race and it's up for grabs right now in South Carolina."
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