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 with about 49% of the vote. Current Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) came in a distant second with about 20% of the vote. Tom Steyer, the California businessman who has spent millions of his own money on TV ads, placed third with about 11%. He is expected to drop out of the race soon, CNN reported.
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. The former Vice President to Barack Obama was under pressure to deliver a decisive win in South Carolina to kickstart his flagging campaign effort.
Biden in his address to supporters after taking a commanding lead called South Carolina voters “the heart of the Democratic party.”
“You brought me back,” Biden said from a campaign event in Columbia, S.C. “We just won and we’ve won big because of you.”
Biden urged viewers to visit his website and vowed to campaign hard to put Democrats back in full-throttle power in Washington, D.C. “I believe we can beat Donald Trump, keep Nancy Pelosi [as House Speaker] and take back the United States Senate.”
Political analysts noted that Biden spent far less in the state on TV advertising than 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. He also earned the valuable endorsement of the state’s revered and long-serving U.S. Rep. James Clyburn.
Sanders was hoping to eat into Biden’s bedrock of support by delivering 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.
Sanders addressed his South Carolina showing in an address from his rally in Virginia Beach. “We are determined that Donald Trump will be a one-term president,” Sanders said. He reeled off his list of wins to date and added: “You cannot win ’em all.”
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 Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) came in with less than 10% of the vote, adding to calls for the trio to end their campaigns to help bring focus to the race and allow the party to consolidate resources behind a presumptive nominee to face off in November against President Donald Trump.