Starting Sunday, you can kiss the early states goodbye.
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According to polls, the race is all but a foregone conclusion: Clinton has maintained a dominating lead throughout the state campaign, and despite gains, Sanders could end up losing by a margin even more lopsided than his 22-point victory in New Hampshire. A Fox News poll released earlier this month showed Clinton leading Sanders 56-28 percent.
Still, the Palmetto State will see a number of story lines play out throughout the day -- several of which could have an impact on the crowded March calendar. Here’s your guide to all the action.
Polls will be open statewide from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. South Carolina holds an “open primary,” meaning any registered voter who didn’t participate in last week’s Republican primary may cast a ballot.
A Predictor of Things to Come?
Traditionally, the South Carolina primary has been known as a “firewall” state for Republicans. While surprises abound in Iowa and New Hampshire, the state of nearly 5 million residents has a good track record of picking the nominee.
The case is less certain for Democrats. This will be only South Carolina’s fifth Democratic primary since its inception in 1992. So far, only one winner -- North Carolina’s John Edwards -- has failed to secure the nomination. Hillary Clinton will hope to follow in the footsteps of her husband, who won the state en route to his election in 1992, and use South Carolina as her own personal “firewall” against Sanders.
Are These the Turnout Numbers of a Revolution?
Ballot boxes were stuffed to the gills in 2008, as voters turned up in record numbers in support of then-Senator Barack Obama. In a deep-red state, Democrats dwarfed their Republican counterparts, casting more than 530,000 votes. South Carolina Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison doesn’t see that happening this year.
“I don’t think we’ll get there,” he told ABC News. “I think we’ll get about 400,000.”
He pointed to a larger field, which included high-voltage names like Clinton and Edwards, in addition to the potential for the first African-American president.
“The dynamic was so different,” he admitted.
Sanders, who has touted enthusiasm and turnout as key to his “political revolution,” may be relieved at the mid-range projection -- polls show Clinton leading him heavily among African-American voters.
Not here. As results trickle in Saturday, Sanders will be en route to a rally in Minnesota. Perhaps as a result of his fading hopes in the state, the Vermont senator has spent several days outside South Carolina this week, as he looks ahead to other contests.
Clinton, meanwhile, seems right at home. Just this week, she made roughly 14 campaign stops in the state. While she made a Friday swing through Georgia and hops down to Alabama today, she will be back in the state tonight to watch returns come in in Columbia. The South Carolina effort has been a family affair, too -- former President Bill Clinton and their daughter Chelsea have each made several campaign stops of their own.
It’s called “First in the South” for a reason. The lessons learned by each campaign will serve a valuable role in mapping out the rest of the March calendar, as one-state-at-a-time campaigning becomes a thing of the past.
In just three days, Democrats in eleven states will participate in Super Tuesday, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee. A solid showing in South Carolina, particularly among African-Americans, could solidify Clinton’s playbook as she tries to scoop up more delegates in the Deep South.
Meanwhile, Sanders has his eye on Massachusetts, Minnesota, and even Oklahoma as potential wins. One state he shouldn’t have to worry about: his home state of Vermont, which looks like a slam dunk.