When Joe Biden first jumped into the 2020 race, he was immediately deemed the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic Party’s nod for the White House. But since then, the former vice president’s frequent gaffes and poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire — combined with growing questions over his son’s potentially scandalous business affairs in Ukraine — have sent his campaign up in smoke.
Now, Biden is looking to make a comeback. The former VP told supporters on Saturday that his campaign is “alive” and “coming back” to win in South Carolina this weekend — but a report from USA Today warns that if Biden fails to gain ground in the Palmetto State, it could be the last nail in the coffin for his dying presidential bid.
“We’re alive and we’re coming back and we’re going to win,” Biden said Saturday in Las Vegas, according to USA Today. “I think we’re in a position now to move on in a way that we haven’t been until this moment. I think we’re going to go, we’re going to win in South Carolina, and then Super Tuesday and we are on our way.”
Biden mounts a comeback
From the get-go, Biden was upfront about South Carolina being a key state for him, largely due to its large population of black voters, who, according to a January report from Politico, have a “relationship and familiarity” with Biden that extends “beyond his time as Barack Obama’s No. 2”
But in recent weeks, the state has moved beyond just being a key to his success; now, it looks like South Carolina could make or break Biden’s candidacy.
“Biden really has to stake his claim here,” University of South Carolina political science professor Robert Oldendick told USA Today. “I think he has to win. If he does not win in South Carolina, it’s pretty much the end of his campaign.”
Oldendick pointed out that unlike other early primary states like New Hampshire and Nevada, South Carolina’s primary tends to play out similarly to races in Super Tuesday states, meaning it could serve as something of a preview for March 3, when some 14 states across the country will divvy up roughly one-third of the Democratic Party’s total delegate pool.
Indeed, if Biden does well in South Carolina, he has a chance at winning back his lead on Super Tuesday. But if he falters, pundits say, he may as well pack his bags and return home to Delaware.
It all comes down to South Carolina
So will the former VP reign victorious? He was long the favorite in the Palmetto State, and he still retains a lead in statewide polls, according to the RealClearPolitics average. But it can’t go without mentioning that Biden’s polling lead over the Democratic field has shrunk substantially in recent months.
He currently maintains a three-point lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — with Biden pulling in 24.5% support to Sanders’ 21.5% — but that has dropped precipitously from the nearly 30-point lead he enjoyed in mid-October, when Biden had 39.5% support and his nearest challenger was Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), who saw 15.8% support.
Moreover, Biden has slipped quite a bit since Feb. 12, when he held a 14-point lead over second-place billionaire Tom Steyer in the polls. Steyer has since fallen to third place; meanwhile, Sanders has been on the rise following solid performances in Iowa and New Hampshire.
With Sanders and other more progressive candidates gaining traction, the future looks bleak for Joe Biden. He may be staging a comeback, but it seems he’s put all his eggs in South Carolina’s basket. We’ll find out on Saturday if that strategy pays off.