Joe Biden decisively won the South Carolina primary on Saturday, giving the former vice president his first victory in the 2020 nominating battle and a burst of momentum ahead of the critical Super Tuesday in three days where a third of the Democratic presidential delegates are up for grabs.
“We won big, and we are very much alive,” Biden said in a victory celebration at the University of South Carolina. “As we celebrate tonight here in Columbia, I want to talk to Democrats across the country, especially those who will be voting on Super Tuesday. This is the moment to choose the path forward for our party. The decisions Democrats make in the next few days will determine what this party stands for, what we believe and what we’ll get done.”
The Associated Press called the race for Biden as soon the polls closed at 7 p.m. ET based on exit polls conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. The results showed a convincing win for Biden, according to AP. With over 50 precinct reported, Biden held a nearly 30-percentage-point lead over front-runner Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Early exit polls show that black voters accounted for about 55 percent of the primary electorate. Biden was the overwhelming favorite among black voters Saturday. An NBC News exit poll showed the former vice president taking about 60 percent of the black vote. Meanwhile, Sanders registered only about 17 percent.
“For all of those of you who’ve been knocked down, counted out, left behind, this is your campaign,” Biden told the crowd. “Just days ago the press and the pundits declared this candidacy dead. Now, thanks to all of you, the heart of the Democratic Party, we just won and we won big. We are very much alive.”
Biden’s first ever state win as a presidential candidate comes after crippling losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as a distant second-place showing in Nevada last week. His win in the Palmetto State wasn’t unexpected, as Biden were leading in polls by double digits
In his victory speech, Biden took several swipes at Sanders, without mentioning his name by saying people don’t want a “revolution.”
“We need to build on the coalition and legacy of the most successful president of our lifetime — Barack Obama. Most Americans don’t want the promise of a revolution. They want results,” Biden said. “Talk is cheap. False promises are deceptive. And talk of a revolution isn’t changing anyone’s life.”
Sanders who didn’t expect a victory in South Carolina spent his day gearing up for Super Tuesday, campaigning in Virginia — a state he is considered to be more competitive for him.
“That will not be the only defeat. A lot of states in this country. Nobody wins them all,” Sanders told a cheering crowd in Virginia. “Now we enter Super Tuesday.”
He also took a swipe at Biden.
“Old fashioned politics, the ‘same old, same old’ type of politics that doesn’t excite anybody, that doesn’t energize anybody — that is not going to be the campaign that beats Trump,” Sanders added.
The last-minute endorsement on Wednesday from Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), the South Carolina kingmaker and the highest-ranking black member of Congress helped give Biden’s campaign the big boost he needed to survive in this race.
“To all of you here in South Carolina — and especially to Jim Clyburn, my friend, you lifted me and this campaign on your shoulders,” Biden said. “I will never forget what you have done for us.”
The former Vice President scored two high-profile endorsements in Virginia the past few days with Sen. Tim Kaine endorsing Biden on Friday and former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe endorsing shortly after Biden was announced the projected winner of the South Carolina primary.
“It’s time to unite behind the candidate who can beat Trump. Joe Biden has the experience, character, and broad appeal to win Virginia and the White House in 2020,” McAuliffe tweeted.
However, despite his decisive win, Biden faces certain challenges in his quest to compete with Sanders for the nomination. The victory in South Carolina could possible help him win in Southern states such as Alabama and North Carolina, states that are voting this Tuesday.
Biden will kick off the restart of his campaign in Alabama, followed by Virginia on Sunday.