Joe Biden wins South Carolina’s Democratic primary

Joe Biden scored a thundering victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Saturday, riding a wave of African American support and ending progressive rival Bernie Sanders’ winning streak.

Biden’s win came at a do-or-die moment in his 2020 bid as the moderate Democrat bounced back from underwhelming performances in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. The race now pivots immediately to a new phase when 14 “Super Tuesday” states take the campaign nationwide early next week.

“We are very much alive,” Biden declared at an exuberant post-election rally. “For all of you who have been knocked down, counted out, left behind — this is your campaign.”

Sanders claimed second place, though his loss gave a momentary respite to anxious establishment Democrats who feared that the self-described democratic socialist would finish February with four consecutive top finishes.

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who was in a battle for third place, formally suspended his campaign. He spent more than $19 million on television advertising in South Carolina — more than all of his rivals combined — but never found a clear lane in the crowded contest.

Biden’s allies almost immediately cast the South Carolina victory as proof that he should stand as the clear alternative to Sanders.

The South Carolina primary was the first major test of the candidates’ appeal among black voters. And while it gave the 77-year-old Biden a win when he most needed it, he must still prove that he has the financial and organizational resources to dramatically expand his campaign in the next 72 hours. He will also be under pressure to rely on his decades-long relationships with party leaders to create a new sense of inevitability around his candidacy.

The Associated Press declared Biden the winner at 7 p.m. EST, just after the polls closed in South Carolina. The AP based the call on data from AP VoteCast, a survey of the electorate conducted for the AP by NORC at the University of Chicago. The survey showed a convincing win for Biden.

Even before news of Biden’s win was declared, Mike Bloomberg announced his own plan to deliver a three-minute prime-time address Sunday night on two television networks. He didn’t say how much he paid for the air time, which is unprecedented in recent decades.

Bloomberg’s campaign privately acknowledged that Biden was likely to get a bump in momentum out of his South Carolina win, but they still believe Bloomberg can win in a handful of states that vote on Super Tuesday, including Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Virginia and North Carolina.

And Sanders was already peeking ahead to Super Tuesday as well, betting he can amass an insurmountable delegate lead at that point. After two consecutive victories and a tie for the lead in Iowa, the 78-year-old Vermont senator’s confidence is surging.

Sanders congratulated Biden on his first win and said it was nothing for his own supporters to worry about.

“Tonight, we did not win in South Carolina. That will not be the only defeat. A lot of states in this country. Nobody wins them all,” he told a cheering crowd in Virginia, one of 14 states to vote next week. “Now we enter Super Tuesday.”

But the Democrats’ 2020 primary election isn’t yet a two-person race.

Not ceding anything, Pete Buttigieg is fighting to prove he can build a multiracial coalition. And with the help of super PACs, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar vowed to keep pushing forward.

Photos: South Carolina voters go to polls

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