Former Vice President Joe Biden has won the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, major media outlets projected the minute the polls closed Saturday at 7 p.m. Eastern.
South Carolina was seen as a must-win for Biden if he is to stay in the race. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had prevailed in the popular vote in the first three nominating contests — the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and the New Hampshire primary — although Pete Buttigieg, the gay former mayor of South Bend, Ind., had a slight edge in pledged delegates in Iowa. Buttigieg finished second in New Hampshire and Biden second in Nevada.
About three hours after the polls closed, with 85 percent of the vote counted, Biden had 48 percent of the vote, Sanders 20 percent, businessman and philanthropist Tom Steyer 11 percent, Buttigieg 8 percent, and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota 7 percent and 3 percent respectively. The remainder was divided among several other candidates, including some who have dropped out of the race. Saturday night, Steyer was added to the dropouts; he told supporters he did not see a path to the nomination.
While delegates are still being allocated, the South Carolina win puts Biden close behind Sanders in the delegate count. Biden is more centrist in ideology than Sanders — for instance, Biden favors building on the Affordable Care Act to offer health insurance to more Americans, but still making use of private insurance, while Sanders favors a universal government-run health insurance program. Many observers, though, see Biden as the candidate with the best chance of beating Donald Trump in November.
Biden is enormously popular with African-Americans, who make up a majority of Democratic voters in South Carolina. He had the endorsement of the state’s influential Congressman Jim Clyburn, one of only two Democrats in South Carolina's congressional delegation.
Another big day in the presidential race is coming in three days. On Super Tuesday, 14 states, one territory, and Democrats living abroad will vote in primaries then.
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