He should be in prime position to sweep the former Mayors supporters and finally consolidate his position in this campaign
Former vice president Joe Biden swept the Democratic primary in South Carolina with a show of force that has yet to been in the 2020 presidential race. After Bernie Sanders blew everyone out of the water with his 26-point victory over the crowded field of candidates in Nevada, it seemed like the momentum was with him. But Biden had other ideas. He overcame consistently average debate performances, poor fundraising totals and what often felt like a complete lack of charisma to not just win South Carolina but win every single district. His 28-point victory was different to Sanders’ one last week because he also dominated every single demographic.
Biden handily beat Sanders to the white vote (multiple exit polls putting the margin of victory at 10 points or more) and annihilated Sanders among black voters (61%-17%). The former vice president even beat Sanders among self-identified independents and across every education level. With his sweeping victory, Biden now has more popular votes than anyone else in the Democratic primary, and this is after Sanders won the popular vote in the first three states. The staggering victory that puts him just behind Sanders in pledged delegates and way ahead of him in popular vote seemed to amplify the ideological fault lines at the heart of the Democratic party.
South Carolina is a deeply conservative and moderate state. The fact of the matter is that Republicans have won the state at every Presidential election from 1964 to date, except for 1978 when Jimmy Carter flipped it. It would be safe to say that in November the Palmetto state will not be up for grabs; the Republicans should take it yet again. Political ideologies of the registered democratic voters of the state are very different from the first three states of this primary election.
40% of the voters self-identity as moderate with another 10% identifying as conservative. 30% say they are liberal and a further 20% identify as very liberal. In the final tally of votes, Sanders ended up with 20% of the vote and Biden got close to 50. This is not to say the votes eventually fell this way, but it’s easy to see how Sanders got the lions share of the very liberal vote, sharing very little of them with Elizabeth Warren. It’s also just as easy to imagine that Biden trounced everyone else and took in more of the moderate and conservative vote that tallied up to 50%.
Looking to Super Tuesday, Biden could get yet another boost with Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer dropping out of the race. He should be in prime position to sweep the former Mayors supporters and finally consolidate his position in this campaign.
These are numbers that should make the Sanders campaign worry. Will he only ever bring out the very liberal vote? Will his message ever resonate with moderates? And why is he preforming so badly with black voters? The last question about the black vote is one that has been vexing the Sanders campaign for a long time. He is undeniably the candidate of choice for younger black voters, but with moderate and older black voters he has been a crushing failure. This is deeply problematic, and while Super Tuesday barely 24 hours away there is no time to recalibrate.
Going into Super Tuesday, when 1,347 of the 3,979 delegates (33% of the national total) are up for grabs across 14 states and territories, it looks like Sanders should emerge with the most delegates. But Biden’s win should not be viewed as a one off; he has proven that he can win over moderate voters and increasingly looks strong across the southern states and Texas. He will not emerge with a delegate lead, but on Wednesday morning, he could end up as the only candidate with a shot at the nomination other than Sanders.
Nader Rahman is a freelance journalist based in New York