COLUMBIA: Former vice president Joe Biden notched up a resounding win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, reviving his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and positioning him as the leading rival to frontrunner Bernie Sanders.
The victory, powered by support from African-American voters, was the 77-year-old Biden’s first in the race and may give him momentum going into “Super Tuesday” next week, when 14 states go to the polls.
“Just days ago the press and the pundits had declared this candidacy dead,” Biden told hundreds of supporters at a victory rally in the South Carolina capital Columbia.
“You’ve launched our campaign on the path to defeating Donald Trump,” he said.
“We have the option of winning big or losing big,” Biden added in a dig at Sanders’ prospects against Trump in November’s election.
Sanders congratulates ex-vice president on his victory
With 99 per cent of the ballots counted, Biden had 48.4pc to 20pc for the 78-year-old Senator Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist.” Billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who spent a whopping $23 million on advertising in South Carolina, was next with 11.4pc but announced he was quitting the race even before the final results were published.
Former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has been challenging Biden for the centrist vote, had 8pc while Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren had 7pc.
A victory in South Carolina, where African-Americans make up around 60pc of the Democratic primary electorate, was seen as crucial to Biden’s hopes of reviving his flagging campaign.
Sanders has been the clear leader in the overall race, winning two of the first three contests and finishing in a virtual tie in Iowa with the 38-year-old Buttigieg.
South Carolina was seen as a key test of Sanders’ support among African-Americans — crucial to a Democratic victory in November — but he only received the backing of around 15pc of black voters while Biden received 60pc according to exit polls.
Biden finished fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and second in Nevada, and desperately needed a win in South Carolina ahead of Super Tuesday, which decides a third of the delegates who formally choose the Democratic nominee at the July party convention.
“The biggest question is whether this will slingshot Joe Biden into victory in some Super Tuesday states,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Sabato said Biden’s primary win — his first in three attempts at securing the Democratic presidential nomination — also increases the pressure on the other centrist candidates to leave the race.
“Super Tuesday is three days away and we’re looking forward to these big contests,” Warren, who has been challenging Sanders for the progressive vote, told supporters at a campaign rally in Texas.
Sanders congratulated Biden on his victory at a campaign rally in Virginia but was confident of victory in the next primaries.
Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2020