Joe Biden Projected Winner of South Carolina Primary. Can He Capitalize On The Momentum?

My brain: Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it.

Me: JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOEMENTUM!!!

Sound the starting pistol, the former vice president of the United States has secured his long-prophesied victory in the South Carolina primary, according to network projections, and now begins his classic car cruise to the Democratic nominating convention in Milwaukee… Well, “cruise” may be overstating it, but Joe Biden’s candidacy, which would likely not have survived a decisive loss in the state, will live to see at least another few days. And, in all seriousness, a big, earnest congrats to Biden, who 32 years after declaring his first candidacy for president, has, at long last, won a real, live primary contest. 

Saturday’s news out of South Carolina is great for Biden — the networks called his victory with none of the official vote tally yet recorded — and it had to be. After placing fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and a distant second in Nevada, this was a must-win contest for the race’s one-time frontrunner. The victory — in the first state with significant African American voter participation — gives Biden bragging rights that he’s the best candidate to rebuild the Obama coalition and counter the Bernie Sanders surge.

Biden was the runaway favorite of African American voters in South Carolina who made up more than half of voters and backed the former vice president with 60 percent support, compared to just 17 percent for Sanders, according to exit poll data. While Sanders beat Biden handily among voters under thirty years old (46-to-24 percent), Biden cleaned up among older voters, and those over 45 made up nearly 70 percent of the electorate.

Although South Carolina should prove a springboard for Biden, he’s not got much time to capitalize on the momentum, with just two full days before the elections of Super Tuesday, when 1,357 delegates are up for grabs in 14 states, one territory and the “Democrats Abroad” primary.

Biden’s victory cuts several ways. Bernie Sanders’ momentum has been blunted for the moment, and his claims to be building a winning multi-racial coalition have been undercut. The case for Mike Bloomberg — who skipped the early contests and quite literally banked on Super Tuesday — is even more damaged. Bloomberg appeared to believe that Biden lacked the staying power to consolidate the moderate wing of the party in the early voting states, and that he could corral their support. Now, after having spent nearly $500 million of his own money, Bloomberg appears poised to play second fiddle to Biden, or worse from the billionaire’s perspective, to play spoiler to Biden’s prospects and help Sanders accumulate a sizable delegate lead.

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar appear to be losing momentum. Black voters in the state roundly rejected their candidacies, giving Buttigieg just three percent support and Klobuchar one percent.

Additional reporting by Tim Dickinson. This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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