An outpouring of black voter support propelled Joe Biden to a convincing victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Saturday (February 29), resurrecting his faltering White House bid and giving the former vice president a chance to claim he is the moderate alternative to front-runner Bernie Sanders.
The win gives Biden a burst of momentum as the Democratic race to find a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump broadens quickly, with Super Tuesday primaries in 14 states in three days that will award one-third of the available national delegates.
“It’s no small reason why I’m in this race — people like all of you here tonight all around the country. The days of Donald Trump’s divisiveness will soon be over,” Biden told a told a victory party in Columbia, South Carolina.
It was the first primary win for Biden, who is making his third run at the White House. The commanding margin will allow Biden, vice president under former President Barack Obama, to argue he is the most electable moderate alternative to Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist whose surging campaign has rattled a Democratic establishment worried he is too far left to beat Trump in November.
Kristen King, 67, who spent weeks knocking on doors and making phone calls to drum up support for Biden, said the former vice president’s values will help him beat Trump..
“He’s a man of integrity. He’s honest. He has morals. He has standards. He’s everything that Donald Trump isn’t,” she said after watching Biden’s victory speech.
In the wake of his decisive victory, Biden was endorsed by Terry McAuliffe, a former governor of Virginia and ex-chair of the Democratic National Committee, and U.S. Representative Bobby Scott, an influential African-American lawmaker from Virginia – a possible sign that the Democratic establishment was starting to coalesce around his candidacy.
It will also raise questions about the continued viability of most of the other contenders. Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar all were trailing well behind with single-digit support with more than 60% of the precincts reporting, with dwindling chances to mount a comeback.
Biden and all of the Democratic contenders will face competition for the first time on Super Tuesday from billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has blanketed the country with half a billion dollars in advertising. Bloomberg skipped the first four state primaries.
Biden desperately needed a win after poor showings in the first two nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire and finishing second in Nevada. He had viewed South Carolina, where his popularity among the state’s big bloc of black voters proved decisive, as his firewall against disaster.
“We love Joe Biden, just like we love President Barack Obama. We love him. And I know he loves us,” Peytrienna Davis, 53, an African American voter from Columbia said at the event.
Kevin Martinez, a 27-year-old voter from Columbia, said Biden’s support for South Carolina was clear after the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston in 2015.
“Joe Biden didn’t just pop up when he wanted to start his campaign and say ‘South Carolina, I’m here.’ No, he’s been here. And I think that Emanuel shooting example was a really good example of how he’s he has been here beside us, standing next to us.’
The resounding win could slow the momentum of Sanders, who had grown stronger with each contest, finishing in a virtual tie for first in Iowa with former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Buttigieg, before notching wins in New Hampshire and Nevada.
Biden, a mainstream Democrat with decades of experience on the U.S. political stage, was powered in South Carolina by support from a broad range of voters, including men and women, black and white, middle-aged and old, those with and without college degrees, independent, liberal and conservative, exit polls showed.
Greenville resident David McMurray, who described himself as “very old”, said the win would help propel Biden towards the general election.
“Incredibly. I certainly hope it just goes all the way and I think it will,” he said.
(Production: Kat Jackson and Kevin Fogarty)