Presidential candidate Joe Biden has continued to surge in the polls ahead of the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary with an 18-point lead, according to a poll released Wednesday. This should come with some relief for business leaders in South Carolina who say they’re willing to support anyone in the election — except Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“I'll tell you that there's concern from the business community if a guy like Bernie Sanders were to get the nomination,” said Ted Pitts, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce CEO. “So as I've talked to Democrats, they're really concerned, and I think you've seen a last-minute push here to try to coalesce support around Vice President Biden.”
For South Carolinians, Pitts said, there are worries over the kind of policies a Sanders administration could bring to the state, especially as it is doing well economically. Employment increased by over 2% from 2018 to 2019, while unemployment dropped by nearly a percentage point. Income in the state also jumped last year, and median home sale prices increased by close to 7%.
Sanders’ policies have caused many in the business community to bristle, as he has threatened aggressive wealth taxes for anyone whose net worth is over $32 million. The Vermont senator also plans to eliminate right-to-work laws, which prevent unions from receiving money from workers.
Under his “workplace democracy plan,” Sanders also aims to prevent companies from being awarded government contracts if employees were paid less than $15 an hour or pay their CEO’s more than 150 times what the average worker makes.
And while businessman and billionaire candidate Mike Bloomberg might be appealing to the small business community, Pitts says both Democrats and Republicans alike are happy with “anybody but Sanders.”
“When you look at the business community as a whole, we're doing really well. And there's obviously, in South Carolina, a lot of folks that are big Trump supporters,” Pitts said. “But I'll tell you, I've talked to a few Republicans who may not be the biggest Trump supporter who said, if Bernie Sanders gets the nomination, I'm going to put a Trump sticker on my car.”
Pitts said that although Sanders has climbed in the polls behind Biden, it isn’t among the business community that Sanders can find support.
“There are a lot of folks that I guess are buying into what he's saying,” Pitts said. “But I think when you talk to business folks, Democrats and Republicans, they would tell you that all the other options are better than Sen. Sanders.”
South Carolina will not have a Republican primary, guaranteeing the state’s support for Donald Trump. As a red state, Pitts believes Trump will win in South Carolina no matter the Democratic nominee.
“But when you look at the primary,” he said, “and the battle that's going on inside the Democrat Party, that's where you see business folks that identify themselves as Democrats say that they are uncomfortable with a Sanders nomination.”
Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.