- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - It’d be a longshot to turn Republican South Carolina from red to blue in this year’s general election, but a repeat visit from Vice President Joe Biden could signal the Democrats see signs of change in the Palmetto State.

The country’s second-most powerful Democrat is returning to the strongly GOP state next week to campaign for a congressional candidate and get out the vote for his party’s ticket.

Biden is scheduled to attend events in Sumter and in Rock Hill on Nov. 1. Details haven’t been released, although the party said in its release Monday that the vice president will be joined by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s lone congressional Democrat, and U.S. House hopeful Fran Person.

Person, 34, worked for Biden in the U.S. Senate and continued as a staffer for the vice president until 2014. He’s challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney in the 5th District that reaches from the North Carolina border into the Midlands.

Mulvaney, 49, is going for a fourth term in the 5th District, which had been in Democratic hands for more than 100 years until he defeated incumbent John Spratt in 2010.

Person has raised more than $184,000 in the third quarter of this year, according to the Federal Election Commission, compared to Mulvaney’s nearly $263,000 in the same period.

Last month, Biden headlined a fundraiser for Person and campaigned with him throughout the district, which the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has listed among the top campaigns across the country to which it offers financial, grassroots and strategic support.

But despite its Democratic roots, the area has trended more and more Republican, thanks in part to redistricting after the 2010 census. In 2012, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district with 55 percent of the vote, roughly the same percentage Mulvaney won in his re-election bid. Two years later, Mulvaney was re-elected with more than 60 percent.

Gibbs Knotts, political science professor at the College of Charleston, called Person a “good test of South Carolina’s redness” but says that color won’t be changing just yet, in the 5th District or statewide.

South Carolina last supported a Democrat for president in 1976, picking Jimmy Carter over President Gerald Ford. Since then, the state has trended more and more Republican, with the party controlling both legislative chambers and every statewide constitutional office. The state last elected a Democratic governor in 1998.

With neighboring North Carolina and Georgia slowly shifting from solidly Republican to possible Democratic wins this fall, Knotts said South Carolina might be in play several cycles down the road, as more newcomers move in, some drawn by top employers like BMW and Boeing.

That, combined with GOP nominee Donald Trump’s polarizing effect, could accelerate the state’s shift toward Democratic candidates, he said.

“It’s going to be more pronounced because of the unprecedented and controversial Republican nominee who is going to speed things up a little bit,” Knotts said. “This will be a time that really shows either how strong the state really is, Republican-wise … or it shows what it might look like in a few years.”

Meanwhile, Knotts said Biden’s visit won’t much affect the district or statewide races this year.

“I don’t see Biden as being somebody who is super popular in South Carolina,” he said. “The pro-union, blue collar, Northeast liberal politician is going to have limited appeal here in 2016.”

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read more of her work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard/

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