Following his notable underperformances in the early primary and caucus states, Joe Biden swept the South Carolina Democratic primary Saturday. With 100 percent of the votes counted, the former vice president finished in first place with 48.4 percent of the vote, a comfortable lead over the rest of the field and a much-needed win leading up to Super Tuesday, when 14 states and one territory will cast their primary votes.
“For all those who have been knocked down, counted out, left behind, this is your campaign,” a beaming Biden said to his supporters during a victory speech. “Just days ago, the press and the pundits had declared this candidacy dead. Now, thanks to all of you, the heart of the Democratic Party, we just won and we won big.”
Not only did Biden perform well overall, but according to exit polls, he amassed 61 percent of the vote from African-American primary voters, compared to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ meager 17 percent. Exit polls also indicate Biden won among both college-educated and non-college-educated voters, white voters, and every age group except 17- to 29-year-olds. He looks to have won each South Carolina county and ended 13 points ahead of Sanders among those self-described as very liberal.
Without explicitly ripping Sanders during his victory lap, Biden alluded to the self-described socialist and his electability, saying, “If the Democrats want a nominee who is a Democrat, a lifelong Democrat, a proud Democrat, an Obama-Biden Democrat, then join us.”
“We have to beat Donald Trump and the Republican Party,” Biden added. “But here’s the deal: We can’t become like them,” he said, again nodding to Sanders and this time comparing the senator to the divisive populist President Trump. “We can’t have a never-ending war.”
Sanders trailed behind with a second-place finish in South Carolina, having garnered 19.9 percent of the vote. This left Pete Buttigieg with 8.2 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 7.1 percent, Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 3.1 percent, and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard with 1.3 percent.
Billionaire Tom Steyer finished in third place with 11.3 percent of the vote but ended his campaign as the final votes were tallied.
“There’s no question today that this campaign, we were disappointed with where we came out,” Steyer said to a room of his South Carolina supporters. “But I said if I didn’t see a path to winning that I’d suspend my campaign, and honestly I can’t see a path where I can win the presidency.”
Biden’s favorable outcome in this southern primary state follows abysmal results in the early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Biden finished in fourth place in Iowa with 15.8 percent of the vote, fifth in New Hampshire with 8.4 percent, and second in Nevada with 20.2 percent.
The former vice president is polling nationally at 18.8 percent, according to RealClearPolitics’ latest aggregate of polls, trailing front-runner Sanders by nearly 11 points. Close on Biden’s heels is the sole remaining billionaire in the race, Michael Bloomberg, with 16.4 percent support.
After skipping the early primary states, Bloomberg’s name is set to appear on the primary ballot for the first time on Super Tuesday, March 3.