It has been a shockingly rough Democratic primary season thus far for former Vice President Joe Biden, once considered the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. He suffered disappointing performances in Iowa and New Hampshire and finished in a distant second-place in Nevada.
But Democratic votes are now being cast in the state of South Carolina, long deemed Biden’s “firewall,” and it looks like the candidate may finally pull out a win, setting the stage for an electoral comeback.
Biden counts on South Carolina
Biden, for all intents and purposes, lost his frontrunner status to self-declared democratic-socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) following the senator’s strong showings in Iowa, New Hampshire, and especially Nevada.
As countless Democratic analysts have pointed out, though, none of those early voting states have a substantial population of black voters. Counting on a transfer of the admiration they still hold for his former boss, former President Barack Obama, Biden hopes to see significant support from black voters in South Carolina on Saturday.
Indeed, earning the coveted endorsement of long-serving Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), a well-respected elder statesmen among the state’s Democrats, may help put Biden over the top.
Polls look good, but the state isn’t a given
It isn’t all rosy in South Carolina for Biden, however, as Sanders is making a much stronger play for the state this year than he did in 2016, when he was blown out by that cycle’s eventual nominee, former secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On top of that, California billionaire Tom Steyer has flooded the state with millions in advertising dollars and has made numerous explicit efforts to win over black voters specifically, left-leaning publication The Nation noted, which could ultimately cut into Biden’s share of that particular demographic in the state.
Nevertheless, Biden is leading virtually all of the polls in the state, according to the RealClearPolitics average, which shows the former vice president with a more than 15-point lead over Sanders, his closest rival.
Interestingly, the RCP average showed that Biden’s support took a hit following New Hampshire and nearly bottomed out after Nevada — Biden only led Sanders in South Carolina by two points that day — but has since skyrocketed upward as Biden has essentially parked himself in the state over the past week.
What happens next?
Assume for a moment that Biden will match the polls and emerge victorious from the South Carolina primary. What then?
After South Carolina, it is on to Super Tuesday on March 3, where some 14 states representing more than 1,300 Democratic delegates will hold caucuses and primaries. The Nation noted that Biden’s strong showing in South Carolina could be rendered all but irrelevant in just a few days if he doesn’t continue to perform well.