Biden looks to shore up lead in SC

Biden looks to shore up lead in SC
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report Sunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Trump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' MORE is looking to shore up his edge in South Carolina ahead of Saturday’s primary after following up a well-reviewed debate performance with a high-profile endorsement from Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.).

Biden’s presidential prospects are on the line in the Palmetto State, but Biden has reason for optimism after a series of new polls showed him with a solid lead over Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report We're at war and need wartime institutions to keep our economy producing what's necessary Larry David: Bernie Sanders should drop out of 2020 race MORE (I-Vt.) — who came under attack from every other candidate onstage during the Tuesday night debate.

An East Carolina University poll released on Wednesday showed Biden leading Sanders by 8 points — a healthy lead, though much less than the 18-point advantage he held in a similar poll conducted after the Iowa caucuses earlier this month.

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Biden is counting on big support from black voters Saturday, something the Clyburn endorsement is intended to stoke. Clyburn is the highest-ranking black member of Congress and one of the most influential Democrats in South Carolina.

“I want the public to know that I’m voting for Joe Biden,” he said in a speech in North Charleston, attended by Biden, where he announced the endorsement. “South Carolina should be voting for Joe Biden.”

Biden will head into Saturday as the favorite in the primary, but even a big win might not be enough to take the nomination from Sanders, the early delegate leader after a big victory in Nevada’s caucuses.

Sanders will be the favorite in several Super Tuesday contests, and there will be little time for Biden to build on any momentum he might be able to generate from a South Carolina win. This year’s Super Tuesday is March 3, just three days after the Palmetto State contest.

Sanders has pulled ahead in recent polls out of California and Texas, the two biggest states holding March 3 contests.

Biden is competing with Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York flooding Super Tuesday states with advertisements, as well as Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus MORE (D-Minn.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg launches new PAC to aid down-ballot candidates HuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Economists fear slow pace of testing will prolong recession MORE for the centrist lane.

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Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (D-Mass.) also remains in the race, providing another alternative to Sanders.

A survey of likely Democratic primary voters in Texas from the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling released Wednesday showed Biden and Sanders tied in the Lone Star State at 24 percent each. Without Bloomberg on the ballot, Biden’s support jumped to 31 percent, while Sanders remained relatively steady at 25 percent, according to the poll.

Despite those challenges, Biden’s allies were upbeat Wednesday after a solid 24 hours for their candidate.

“After two disappointing finishes, he’s still showing historical strength in South Carolina, and he’s going to prove it on Saturday,” said Rufus Gifford, the finance director for former President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and a Biden ally. “And it actually sets him up pretty nicely for Super Tuesday.”

Biden confronted Sanders at the Charleston, S.C., debate on issues that could help him with black voters.

He raised Sanders’s mixed record on gun control legislation and accused him of plotting a 2012 primary challenge against Obama — a charge the Sanders campaign has denied.

Some strategists think Biden could win big Saturday, and suggest polls are underestimating support from black voters in South Carolina, particularly older ones who are among the most reliable in the state’s primary.

“People have a hard time polling black people and that’s just a fact,” said Bakari Sellers, a former state lawmaker who previously supported Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Is Texas learning to love ObamaCare? MORE’s (D-Calif.) presidential bid.

He noted that both Obama and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFormer Obama adviser Plouffe predicts 'historical level' of turnout by Trump supporters Poll: More Republican voters think party is more united than Democratic voters Whoopi Goldberg presses Sanders: 'Why are you still in the race?' MORE, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, won South Carolina by much larger margins than those foreshadowed by polls. For Biden, he predicted, “it’s going to be a considerable margin.”

One poll from Clemson University released Wednesday gave Biden his most significant lead in South Carolina in weeks, showing him with 35 percent support. Billionaire activist Tom SteyerTom SteyerProgressive advocates propose T 'green stimulus' plan Candidates want data privacy rules, except for their own campaigns Budowsky: Biden should pull together a 'dream team of rivals' MORE, whose heavy spending in the state has resulted in polling strength there, placed second in the survey with 17 percent support.

Klobuchar, Buttigieg and Warren face an uphill battle in South Carolina. They have largely struggled to win the support of minority voters and recent polls of the state show them lagging well behind Biden and Sanders.

Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina-based Democratic strategist who is unaligned in the primary race, said that he expects candidates who don’t perform well in South Carolina to remain in the race on Super Tuesday.

“They’re going to have to make some decisions,” he said. “But it’s such a small window, I think they’ll go into Super Tuesday bumped up and bruised up.”

Despite the uncertainty, Democrats say that a win in South Carolina will be a necessary first step for Biden if he hopes to put himself back on track to compete for his party’s nomination.

“This is a place where people come to reset their campaigns and reshape what the rest of the process looks like,” Seawright said. “And I think this could be both of those things for Joe Biden.”