As the final hours ticked down before voting begins in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both held raucous rallies in Columbia Friday night to help get out the vote.
Clinton appeared under the lights in Boyd Plaza in front of the Columbia Museum of Art, and was introduced by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
"I want to thank the people of South Carolina for opening your hearts to Hillary,” he said. Hillary Clinton has a big lead in the polls leading up to election day, with the latest Real Clear Politics average showing a 27 point advantage for the former Secretary of State. The polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Saturday.
At Friday night's rally, the former president recalled fond times in the state. “When we were a young couple and our daughter was very young, we used to come to South Carolina on vacation," he said. "Chelsea first rode a bicycle on the beach on Kiawah Island.”
Chelsea Clinton was in South Carolina earlier in the day holding an event at USC. Hillary Clinton will be on campus Saturday, holding her election night party at the Carolina Volleyball Center.
Meanwhile, Friday night saw Township Auditorium host Bernie Sanders. Rapper Killer Mike delivered a thundering introduction for Bernie Sanders that grew in volume and intensity until it reached a crescendo. “The Jesus Christ that I learned about in my Bible in black church on Sunday would say you vote for the person who has the moral character to bring us out of the mire we are in," he said. "He would vote for Bernard Sanders.”
Despite his rally here on Friday, Sanders will not hold an event in South Carolina as the returns roll in. Instead, he will campaign in Minnesota ahead of Super Tuesday.
At Friday night's rallies, both candidates touched on similar themes in their speeches.
Clinton began by talking about the economy and a goal for the future. "Imagine that we have a chance to attract jobs here to South Carolina," she said. "Not just in a great, growing city like Columbia but out in the country, along I-95, where a lot of folks feel like they’ve been left out and left behind,”
Clinton said she wants to return the country to the economic prosperity it saw during her husband's administration.
“I have so many people across South Carolina, when I’m shaking hands, when I’m calling on folks to ask a question, who say to me, ‘We really did well when your husband was there,’" she said. "And I say, "Look, I’m going to learn from that. I believe we should take lessons from what worked, and we’re going to get back to try and grow this economy.”
Sanders began his speech with a familiar refrain. “South Carolina, are you ready for a political revolution?" he said to loud cheers. "Then you have come to the right place because that’s what we are about.”
The economy was also a central theme in Sanders' speech. “In South Carolina, in Vermont, all over this country, we’re seeing something very strange going on," he said. "We’re seeing people working not just one job — they’re working two jobs, they’re working three jobs. And yet, despite the fact that mom’s working, dad’s working, the kids are working, turns out that 58 percent of all new income created today is going to the top one percent.”
Sanders promised to reverse that trend. “We’re going to create an economy that works for working families, not just the top one percent," he said.
Both Clinton and Sanders tackled the issue of healthcare at Friday's events in Columbia.
Clinton praised President Obama's healthcare reform efforts. "19 million people now have access to health care, and I’ve met them across South Carolina," she said. "I’ve had people come up and tell me their stories and thank me for defending the Affordable Care Act, which I will do.”
Sanders attacked Gov. Nikki Haley for her rejection of the Affordable Care Act, and referenced his time as a member of the committee that wrote the law. “When we wrote that bill, I have to be honest with you, I did not hear one word of discussion ... that there would be governors in this country, like the governor of South Carolina, who rejected Medicaid expansion," he said to loud boos.
Sanders then directed a message at Haley and the legislature. “I say to the government here in South Carolina, push your ideology aside," he said. "Worry about the health needs of the people of the state.”
Education was another topic both candidates took on at their rallies.
Clinton referenced the so-called "corridor of shame" in South Carolina. “I went to those schools along I-95 and I know that a lot of them have real problems," she said. "And I know that your Supreme Court has ordered that something be done about it. I want to be helpful as president to support the kinds of changes that will improve schools, provide the equipment, give you the teachers that you need.”
Sanders focused on higher education, reinforcing his familiar pledge that he will work towards tuition-free public colleges and universities. "What I would like to see in South Carolina, Vermont and all over this country — I want to see every child today in the fourth grade and the sixth grade, every teacher, every parent understand that if those children are working hard in school — if they are doing well — I want those kids to know that regardless of the income of their families, yes they will be able to go to college," he said.
He followed that up with a pledge to help students already in debt. "Anybody here with student debt?" Sanders called out. The calls came back as if at an auction: "$30,000!" "$50,000!" Sanders stopped the crowd and engaged with a young man who called out, "$110,000!"
Clinton also touched on the issue of student debt and pledged to work towards the same goal as Sanders. "We’ve got to get college affordable," she said. "Imagine that we have access to college where you have tuition that is debt-free. You don’t have to borrow a dime in order to go to college."
“I meet so many young people today who are burdened down by debt," Clinton said. "We’re going to liberate you from that burden. We’re going to enable you to get on with your lives to have the future that you deserve.”
Both candidates closed their Friday night rallies in Columbia by urging voters to support them in Saturday's primary.
“I need your help tomorrow," Clinton said. "The South Carolina primary is personally important to me because I want to send a strong signal that South Carolina is ready for change, ready for progress, ready to make a difference."
Clinton also went a step further. "I will do everything I can as a Democratic nominee, if I’m so fortunate, to help turn South Carolina a little bluer this year," she said, to the loudest cheers of the night.
Clinton closed with a promise. "I will work as your president, if I am fortunate enough to be there, to keep building and to keep working to give South Carolina the best chance to realize the future that should be available to each and every American," she said.
Sanders stressed the need for voters to show up. “I need your help tomorrow here in South Carolina," he said. "We need you bring out your brothers and your sisters, and your moms and dads, and your kids and your grandparents. We need a big turnout tomorrow.”
“We know that when we stand together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish," Sanders said. "That’s what this campaign is about."
Sanders ended with a strong message to those in attendance. “Welcome to the political revolution," he said as he left the stage.