Joe Biden wins the South Carolina primary, his first-ever victory in three presidential runs

biden wins sc

Business Insider

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden has won the South Carolina primary, Decision Desk HQ projects.
  • Biden's victory also marks the first time the former vice president has won a primary between his three presidential runs in 1988, 2008, and now, 2020. 
  • Biden's South Carolina win keeps his campaign viable and afloat for now but won't guarantee big wins on Super Tuesday.
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Former Vice President Joe Biden has won the South Carolina Democratic primary, Decision Desk HQ projects.

Biden's victory marks the first time the former vice president has won a primary between his three presidential runs in 1988, 2008, and now, 2020. Advertisement

 

Biden's South Carolina win keeps his campaign afloat for now but won't guarantee big wins on Super Tuesday

Biden came in fourth place in the chaotic Iowa caucuses and fifth place in the New Hampshire primary. While Biden had a slight rebound with a second-place finish in Nevada, he made clear that the future of his campaign would hinge on a South Carolina victory.

For most of the 2020 primary cycle, Biden led the polls by a huge margin in South Carolina due to his previously insurmountable lead among African-American voters, who make up about 60% of the Democratic electorate in the state. 
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Biden successfully appealed to black voters by tapping into voters' strong desire to defeat Trump, positioning himself as the most likely to defeat the president in a general election. The problem with the strategy, however, is that betting a candidacy on electability actually requires winning elections. 

Biden's electability case took a serious hit in the first three contests, where he came in fourth place in Iowa, fifth place in New Hampshire, and second place far behind Sanders in Nevada, a diverse state with a strong working-class base that Biden hoped would deliver a much-needed victory for his campaign. Amid his losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden has been hemorrhaging support among black voters nationwide to Sanders and billionaire former Mayor Mike Bloomberg. While Bloomberg isn't on the ballot in South Carolina, he's poured half a billion dollars into TV, radio, and digital ads, many of which explicitly target black voters in key Super Tuesday states, and shot up in the polls within in a matter of months as a result.Advertisement

But Biden's base in South Carolina, including black voters, stood behind him on election day.

In an NBC/Marist College poll of South Carolina registered voters conducted February 18-21, Biden led among African-American voters with 32% supporting him compared to 22% for Sanders, 18% for Steyer, and 13% undecided with all other candidates in single-digits. 

And as the Washington Post's Dave Weigel noted on Wednesday, South Carolina polls in past cycles have often undershot the full extent of candidates' support among African-Americans. Advertisement

 

Three days before the primary, Biden received a crucial endorsement from House Majority Rep. Whip Jim Clyburn, the most senior African-American lawmaker in the House and by far the most influential figure in South Carolina Democratic politics. 

Preliminary South Carolina exit polls conducted by Edison Research indicate that Clyburn's endorsement contributed at least somewhat to Biden's big week, with 47% of voters saying Clyburn backing Biden was "an important factor" in who they decided to vote for. Advertisement

Going into Super Tuesday, Biden is projected by FiveThirtyEight to earn the most delegates in several states but is squeezed on one side by Sanders' electoral momentum and sustainable base of grassroots fundraising, and by Bloomberg's astronomical ad spending and ground presence in Super Tuesday states on the other, still leaving him in a precarious position going forward. 

As The New York Times recently reported, Biden's struggles with fundraising have left his ground game and field organizing woefully inadequate in key Super Tuesday states including California, where his campaign has just one field office. 

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