Poll: Biden holds wide lead in South Carolina ahead of primary

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump campaign emails supporters encouraging mask-wearing: 'We have nothing to lose' Cuba spells trouble for Bass's VP hopes Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks MORE holds a wide 20-point lead over his closest rivals in South Carolina just days before the state’s Democratic presidential primary, according to a Monmouth University poll released on Thursday.

The poll shows Biden’s support in the first-in-the-South primary state at 36 percent. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersCuba spells trouble for Bass's VP hopes Trump Spanish-language ad equates progressives, socialists Biden's tax plan may not add up MORE (I-Vt.) trails in a distant second place with 16 percent support, while billionaire activist Tom SteyerTom SteyerSteyer endorses reparations bill, commits to working with Jackson Lee Progressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches MORE is just behind him at 15 percent.

Rounding out the top five are Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCuba spells trouble for Bass's VP hopes Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks Overnight Defense: Embattled Pentagon policy nominee withdraws, gets appointment to deputy policy job | Marines, sailor killed in California training accident identified | Governors call for extension of funding for Guard's coronavirus response MORE (D-Mass.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegFormer Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan dies How Republicans can embrace environmentalism and win In politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over MORE, who registered 8 percent and 6 percent support, respectively.

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The poll is the latest to show Biden holding a large lead in South Carolina, despite Sanders’s recent back-to-back victories in the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses. 

Some polls in recent weeks had shown a tightening race in the Palmetto State, with Sanders coming within a few points of Biden, the longtime front-runner in South Carolina.

But a handful of polls this week have shown the former vice president’s lead in the state holding strong. A Clemson University survey released on Wednesday gave him an 18-point lead over the second-place finisher Steyer, while another survey from the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling showed Biden ahead of Sanders by 15 points.

Biden is in desperate need of a win in South Carolina following lackluster performances in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, as well as a distant second-place finish in Nevada. 

His campaign sees South Carolina as something of a firewall for his candidacy, given his strong support among black voters, who make up roughly 60 percent of the state’s primary electorate. They’re hoping that a clear victory in the primary there on Saturday will lend momentum to Biden’s prospects heading into Super Tuesday when 14 states will hold their nominating contests.

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Even if he scores an outsize victory in South Carolina on Saturday, however, it remains unclear whether it will be enough to propel Biden to the front of the pack on Super Tuesday. Sanders is the favorite to win in delegate-rich states like California, and Biden is still competing for the support of moderate voters with several other candidates.

Biden will also have to contend with former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergHillicon Valley: Trump raises idea of delaying election, faces swift bipartisan pushback | Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google release earnings reports | Senators ask Justice Department to investigate TikTok, Zoom Meme group joins with Lincoln Project in new campaign against Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump pivots on convention; GOP punts on virus bill MORE, who has skipped the early primaries and caucuses in favor of a strategy that emphasizes wins on Super Tuesday. 

Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars so far on advertising and staffing operations, giving him some early polling strength. But he has also come under intense fire from his rivals for the Democratic nomination over his mayoral record and past controversial remarks, and a bungled debate performance in Las Vegas last week invited widespread questions of his ability to compete in the presidential race.

While he’s not competing in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, the Monmouth poll suggests that he would have little support there. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they were either very or somewhat likely to cast their vote for the former mayor if he were to appear on the ballot, while 65 percent said they would either be not too likely or not at all likely to vote for him.

The Monmouth poll released on Thursday suggests that the first three nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada did little to sway South Carolina voters’ preferences in the primary. Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed said they did not change their mind after the earlier primary and caucuses, while another 7 percent said the contests prompted them to take another look at the Democratic field but did not ultimately impact their choice for the nomination.

The Monmouth poll surveyed 454 likely South Carolina Democratic presidential primary voters from Feb. 23 to 25. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.