COLUMBIA, SC – Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden pulled out a do-or-die victory in the South Carolina primary, notching his first win in the 2020 presidential race and giving his uneven bid a much-needed jolt of momentum heading into Super Tuesday.
The Biden camp hopes the win resets the race, making it easier for the 77-year-old to argue he can build a diverse and powerful coalition of supporters and is the best alternative to Sen. Bernard Sanders, the far-left Vermonter who put up a stronger fight here than he did four years ago against Hillary Clinton.
NBC News and ABC News projected Mr. Biden was the winner as soon as the polls closed here at 7 p.m.
The electorate appeared to be a good fit for Mr. Biden, according to exit polls that showed 55% of those that turned out were African American, 40% described themselves as “moderate” and almost 30% of voters were age 65 or older.
More stunning was close to half of primary voters said the recent endorsement from House Majority Whip James Clyburn, the most influential black leader in the state, was an “important” factor in their vote.
A third of voters said they made up their minds over the last few days.
Despite the win, the jury is out on what it means for Mr. Biden going forward.
He has struggled to keep up with some of his rivals on the fundraising front and the strength of his national ground game has been called into question.
Before the final tally was known, Mr. Clyburn told CNN that a Biden win here would redefine the race and “give him the legs that he needs to go the distance.”
Mr. Clyburn, who is slated to campaign Sunda with Mr. Biden in North Carolina, also acknowledged the Biden camp needed to tighten up its operation.
“We need to do some retooling in the campaign,” he said. “There is no question about that.”
Mr. Sanders, meanwhile, leads the overall race for the 1,991 delegated needed to capture the nomination on the first ballot when Democrats converge in July in Milwaukee for Democratic National Convention.
And he also holds a commanding lead in many of the polls in several of the states that will hold their nomination contests on Super Tuesday when roughly a third of all the delegates up for grabs in 2020.
Most importantly Mr. Sanders is leading the pack in California and Texas, where 416 and 228 pledged delegates are up for grabs, respectively.
There were 54 delegates up for grabs here in South Carolina.
Mr. Biden, on the other hand, is the polling frontrunner first in North Carolina and Oklahoma.
The other candidates, meanwhile, face more daunting challenges, and are certain to face more pressure to drop out of the race.
Meanwhile, Mr Sanders’ deep-rooted strength has set off alarm bells within the less liberal ranks of the Demcoratic Party and triggered a slew of warnings that his brand of Democratic socialism would torpedo the party’s chances of winning the White House and controlling either chamber of Congress after the election.
President Trump came to a similar conclusion this week when he polled the crowd at a campaign rally in Charleston this week who would be the weakest Democrat to run against him.
“So who is easier to beat – Crazy Bernie or Sleepy Joe,” Mr. Trump said, weighing the reaction from attendees. “They think Bernie is easier to beat.”
Nina Turner, national co-chair, said Saturday that Mr. Trump is “shaking in his booths” and said that Mr. Sanders is beating the president in most head-to-head polls – including in the states – such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania – that Democrats lost four years ago.
“He is really strong in those states, and those are the states that we need to win,” she said on CNN. “He is also building the type of coalition needed to win. That is a black, brown, white, indigienous and Asian coalition of the working-poor and the barely middle-class people in this country.”
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