U.S. Markets closed

Steyer wins black Democratic group endorsement in South Carolina

By Trevor Hunnicutt

By Trevor Hunnicutt

Feb 2 (Reuters) - A South Carolina caucus for African-American women will back Tom Steyer on Sunday, the group's chair said, an important endorsement for the billionaire U.S. presidential candidate in the first state to vote in which most Democrats are black.

"This is a crucial election and black women need a candidate who's going to champion our policies" from housing to reproductive rights and entrepreneurship, Mattie Thomas, chair of the Black Women's Caucus of South Carolina, told Reuters.

South Carolina, where two-thirds of the Democratic electorate is black, comes fourth, on Feb. 29, in the state-by-state process of picking a Democratic nominee to face Republican President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election. The first nominating contest is on Monday in Iowa.

Public-opinion polling has shown former Vice President Joe Biden ahead by more than 20 percentage points in South Carolina, which he is counting on to cement his standing in a competitive race.

But Steyer, who polls in single digits nationally, has hired more staff, appeared at more events and spent more money on advertisements in South Carolina than Biden. A January Fox News poll forecast Steyer placing second to Biden in the state with 15% of the vote, up from 4% in the autumn.

Biden's highest-polling opponents nationally, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have put more emphasis on the first two states to hold nominating contests, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Thomas said the decision between Steyer and Biden was a bit of a "toss-up" but that the ex-businessman, "has his own record whereas Joe Biden is a part of the record" of the first black president, Barack Obama, whom he served as deputy.

There are no longer any black candidates among the leaders in the Democratic field, after prominent candidates including Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris dropped out.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Dubuque, Iowa Editing by Peter Graff)