Once, former Vice President Joe Biden considered South Carolina a “firewall,” based on his support among African American voters. But now, a surging Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) could win the state.
South Carolina is the fourth early state, and the last before Super Tuesday. This week will see a debate on Tuesday, hosted by CBS and the Congressional Black Caucus at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT). The primary itself will be held on Saturday, Feb. 29, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.
Biden has led almost every South Carolina poll since the start of the 2020 presidential race. But the gap is narrowing, and a poll earlier this month showed Biden tied with Sanders in the Palmetto State.
As Byron York of the Washington Examiner points out, Biden was 20 points clear of the field in South Carolina in early January. But he has dropped dramatically since then.
The RealClearPolitics average of South Carolina polls. Biden is green, Sanders is blue. Biden was 20 points ahead of Sanders in early January. Lead today is 2.3 points. https://t.co/izB586JtXn pic.twitter.com/rHKitx7ltN
— Byron York (@ByronYork) February 23, 2020
Partly that is because rivals like Tom Steyer began spending massive amounts of cash in the state. But it is also because the former vice president did worse than expected in Iowa and New Hampshire, both at the debates and the polls.
Biden’s campaign is claiming that his second-place finish is evidence of a comeback. That may be, if he can hold off Sanders in South Carolina. But it may not be enough for him to win the nomination.
The first problem is that Sanders has begun to break out of his core white liberal constituency. Sanders won Latinos in Nevada and added to his African American support. Biden’s claim to the nomination has been that only he can bring minority voters to the polls (thanks to his association with Barack Obama).
Sanders has new room to grow his support; it is not clear how Biden will try to grow his, with so many rivals, including newcomer Michael Bloomberg, competing to save the party from Sanders.
Second, Biden’s mainargument has been “electability.” But he has yet to win a single early state.
Moreover, it may be that Democratic Party primary voters are no longer interested in choosing someone who can win. After the Iowa debate in January, the consensus was that none of the candidates had what it took to beat Trump.
With “electability” out of the way, better — to some voters, at least — to indulge sentiment instead, and vote for a candidate whose utopian idealism is closer to what the Democratic Party believes than many of its leaders would care to admit.
Sanders is the strongest candidate in a field where winning is no longer a priority.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.