Joe Biden needs to win South Carolina’s primary to revive his dying campaign — and a recent poll out of the state has some good, but potentially deceiving, news for him.
Biden maintains a double-digit lead over Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the Democratic primary frontrunner, in a new Public Policy Polling survey of likely Democratic voters in South Carolina that was taken after Nevada’s caucuses on Saturday.
Biden clings to South Carolina support
Biden began the primaries as the presumed frontrunner, but he has dramatically underperformed while Sanders shot to the front of the pack after crushing the competition in Saturday’s contest. The former vice president finished in a distant second in Nevada’s caucuses, just the latest disappointment from his campaign after finishing fifth and fourth place in New Hampshire and Iowa, respectively. South Carolina’s primary on Saturday could be Joe Biden’s first win, and win he must, or his campaign is over.
According to the PPP poll, Biden has 36% support in South Carolina and a comfortable 15-point lead over Sanders, who has 21% support. Biden and Sanders are the only candidates to register in the double digits, with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Pete Buttigieg lagging behind in third and fourth place.
“PPP’s newest poll of Democratic primary voters in South Carolina finds it looking like a two-person race, with only Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders reaching double digits in their support,” said PPP director Tom Jensen.
The poll also shows that Biden has support from 50% of black voters in the state, while Sanders trails behind with 21 percent. Biden has long bet on strong support from black voters to buoy him.
Moment of truth
Biden is largely no longer seen as a serious contender for the Democrat presidential nomination, and South Carolina is probably his last chance to convince voters otherwise. Notwithstanding his comfortable margin in this latest poll — which was taken on Feb. 23 and 24, after Biden’s strongest (but still disappointing) showing yet in the Nevada caucuses — Sanders has been catching up to Biden in other recent polls. He is trailing Biden in South Carolina by five points, according to a RealClear politics average of recent polls.
The latest polls appear to reflect a troubling reality that is dawning on the Democratic establishment: Sanders looks increasingly unstoppable, while the moderates continue to split up the anti-Sanders vote and struggle to contain his momentum. Sanders swept nearly 50% of the vote in Nevada and 24 delegates, while Biden trailed behind with 20% of the vote and nine delegates.
Biden’s lackluster results are undercutting the central idea of his campaign: his supposed electability. Instead, the candidate widely said to be unelectable by centrist Democrats, Sanders, is crushing the competition and seizing control of the Democratic party, to the alarm of party elites.
Sanders will almost certainly face attacks from all sides when the candidates debate in South Carolina Tuesday night, which may well provide Biden with his last chance to make the case for his candidacy to the voting public. Biden has consistently attacked Sanders as being too far to the left, and in recent days he has seized on reports that Russia wants to interfere in the election to help Sanders.
If South Carolina is the end of the road for Biden, then he won’t be finishing his campaign without a few final gaffes. Biden told a crowd in South Carolina on Monday that he is “running for the United States Senate.”
And it’s quite possible that Biden’s campaign will implode for good on Saturday, making for a sad ending to a long political career.