The Democrats’ 2020 nominating fight turned to South Carolina on Saturday for the first-in-the-South primary, with Joe Biden projected as the winner, halting the rise of national leader Bernie Sanders, who got second place.
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Voting began from the beginning with all the attention on Biden, who started out as one of the top favorites in this state, after three consecutive losses in Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire.
Nearly eight of 10 voters in South Carolina said they have a favorable view of Biden, compared with five of 10 who see rival Sanders favorably, exit polls showed.
The polls also found about six of 10 of South Carolina voters said influential black congressman James Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden on Wednesday was a factor in their decision.
And about half want a candidate who will return to Democratic President Barack Obama’s policies, a key argument of Biden, who was Obama’s vice president.
The win gives Biden new momentum as the Democratic race to find a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump now broadens quickly, with Super Tuesday primaries that will award one-third of the available national delegates in a single day.
Sanders, a progressive U.S. senator from Vermont who had become the national front-runner, finished second in the state, although he still holds the national lead.Tom Steyer, a billionaire-turned-activist who spent heavily in South Carolina, appeared likely to finish third.
The importance of South Carolina, a state of 5.2 million people, lies in the fact that it is the first southern state to measure the real strength that the Democratic pre-candidates have in the southern region of the country.
Nearly 30% of the state’s population is Black and traditionally represent more than 60% of Democratic voters. However, Democrats in this state also tend to be moderate democrats rather than progressives, an important group for the Democratic candidate to win in general elections.
This vote was also key, as it was the last primary before the Super Tuesday next March 3, when 14 states will go to the polls. This day, it could be defined who will finally be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.
Meanwhile, in addition to what may happen on Super Tuesday, attention will also be focused on what may happen in Florida, another key state as 219 delegates are in play and whose primaries will be held on March 17.