COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - In the closing days before the first votes are cast in the Democratic presidential contest, the party's leading hopefuls are splitting their time between the critical early-voting states South Carolina and Iowa at events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
While Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats vote first for their nominee, South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary is a crucial proving ground for a candidate's mettle with black voters. The state's showcase holiday celebration, Columbia's King Day at the Dome, is a notable and highly visible event for a Democratic politician. The festivities are marked by a march through the streets of downtown Columbia and a rally at the Statehouse.
All the top-tier candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California businessman Tom Steyer and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — planned to start Monday with prayer services around Columbia. Joining them in the capital are Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
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