Joseph R. Biden Jr scored a decisive victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, reviving his listing campaign and establishing himself as the leading contender to slow Senator Bernie Sanders as the turbulent Democratic race turns to a slew of coast-to-coast contests on Tuesday.
Propelled by an outpouring of support from South Carolina’s African-American voters, Biden easily overcame a late effort by Sanders to stage an upset. The victory in a state long seen as his firewall will vault Biden into Super Tuesday, where polls open in just over 48 hours, as the clear alternative to Sanders for establishment-aligned Democrats.
Biden, the former Vice-President, captured just under 50 per cent of the vote, well ahead of Sanders, who had 20 percent. Tom Steyer, the California billionaire, was a distant third, followed by Pete Buttigieg and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The victory enabled Biden to significantly narrow Sanders’s pledged delegate lead, but he did not appear poised to overtake him.
Biden, in an exuberant victory speech on Saturday night, looked ahead to a long, ideological struggle and made repeated arguments against Sanders, though not by name.
He said voters faced a momentous choice in the coming days. Democrats, Biden argued, wanted results rather than revolution, improvements to the Affordable Care Act rather than a disruptive transformation of the health-care system, and a candidate who would “take on the NRA (National Rifle Association, a gun rights advocacy group) and gun manufacturers and not protect them”.
“If Democrats want a nominee who’s a Democrat, a lifelong Democrat, a proud Democrat, an Obama-Biden Democrat, join us,” Biden said, adding: “We have the option of winning big or losing big. That’s the choice.”
For Biden, 77, the victory here was a moment to savour. Low on cash and without a victory in the first three contests, Biden desperately needed South Carolina, a state for which he has long had a personal affection, to resurrect his third and perhaps final quest for the presidency.