Joe Biden has won the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, marking the former Vice President’s first-ever state primary win despite two previous runs for the White House.
CNN reported that Biden commanded an easy win, according to early returns after the polls closed at 7 p.m. ET. Tom Steyer, the California businessman who has spent millions of his own money on TV ads appeared to have elbowed past Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders, according to early returns.
Biden was the favorite going in to the Palmetto state’s contest, and he lived up to his reputation as a respected figure among African American voters. Biden was under pressure to deliver a decisive win in South Carolina to kickstart his flagging campaign effort.
Political analysts noted that Biden spent far less in the state on TV advertising than rivals Sanders or Steyer, who is estimated to have shelled out $23 million on TV and digital ads in South Carolina alone.
Biden banked on his longstanding popularity in the state and his eight-year tenure as Vice President to Barack Obama. He also earned the valuable endorsement of the state’s revered and long-serving U.S. Rep. James Clyburn.
Sanders was hoping to deliver a respectable showing in a state where black voters constitute the majority of Democratic voters. Sanders has had momentum after wins in primaries in New Hampshire and Nevada earlier this month. The independent Senator from Vermont had hoped to quiet the doubts about his appeal to black voters and old-school mainstream Democrats. South Carolina had 54 delegates at stake, the largest number out of the four states to have held Democratic contests to date.
At the same time, the Sanders campaign has put much of its focus on contests to come in the March 3 Super Tuesday primaries. Sanders spent Saturday night campaigning in Virginia Beach, Va., which is one of the 14 delegate-rich states voting next week, a list that includes Sanders’ home state. Super Tuesday is also crucial to the fortunes of another upstart candidate in the race, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has staked his fortunes on a big showing in an array of Super Tuesday states to show that he’s electable as a Democrat and a more palatable alternative for middle-of-the-road Democrats than Sanders, who is riding a more aggressive liberal economic agenda.
Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was also in need of a respectable return in South Carolina to demonstrate the range of her populist economic platform. But Warren and Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., claimed only a small slice of the Democratic electorate apiece, according to CNN. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minn.) was pacing slightly behind Buttigieg and Warren.
Political analysts see Biden as desperate to capitalize in a decisive victory on South Carolina to deliver a burst of momentum for a campaign seen as lacking in energy, enthusiasm and funds at present. 2020 watchers expect the Democratic field to thin considerably in the days after Super Tuesday.
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