Some thoughts on tonight’s South Carolina Democratic Primary results, starting with…
Joe Biden Is Legitimately Back
Just as last week’s Nevada Caucuses were unspinnable, so are these results for Joe Biden. The former Vice President has won, and won by a margin that is undeniable. What the final margin closes at is still unclear, but for Biden to win by so much that the result was immediately called for Biden. For the candidate who went all in on South Carolina to win it so big is a validation of Biden’s strategy, even if this doesn’t solve all of his problems. The size of his bounce for Super Tuesday is unclear, with high early vote rates in Texas and California, but Biden did his job in South Carolina.
The Black Vote Is Up In The Air
Per the CNN exit poll, Biden won Black voters by 43%, 60%-17%. That number isn’t in and of itself crazy, but in the context of national numbers, it’s pretty shocking. Morning Consult this week showed Bernie Sanders winning Black voters 35%-30%, but that number is in some doubt after Biden’s demolition of the black vote in South Carolina. It’s possible that Biden’s years of working the South Carolina black community is creating a made-in-SC surge for him, but the question of what comes next looms. If Biden performs like this with black voters on Super Tuesday, he’s back in the dominant position so many believed him to be in before Iowa. We won’t know what’s happening until after Tuesday, but if Biden can replicate this performance he strengthens substantially.
Sanders Took His First Real Hit
Despite a result that wasn’t too far off the LeanTossup model’s projection, the fact that Joe Biden just had the night he had is bad news for the Vermont Senator. What this means for Sanders’ Super Tuesday chances is mixed – he’s still the favorite to win California, and the effects of a bump will be limited by the early vote in Texas, but it’s likely Biden does better in the Deep South than expected. Sanders’ chances of winning a majority of delegates is likely to fall from the 21% that LeanTossup currently projects, and at that point, he loses the ability to control how things can go. If he doesn’t get a majority he’s at the whim of events in a way he wouldn’t be if he just wins a majority – and this is bad news for his chances of a majority. This result also means that caution needs to be exhibited when looking at large national leads for Sanders – as he has underperformed his polls in three of the first four states.
Money Can’t Always Buy Delegates
Bye, Tom Steyer. His self-funded campaign has failed, going out with a whimper in South Carolina. The lessons of his failure can be overread – his failure is not a lock that Mike Bloomberg’s self-funding campaign will also do so. But the winnowing of the Democratic field has started, as Tom Steyer leaves the stage.
Warren, Klobuchar, And Pete Continue To Exist
Three candidates without black support failed in a state where it’s estimated 55% of the electorate was black. Warren and Klobuchar have been focusing on their home states, which vote on Super Tuesday. None of these candidates are going to elevate themselves into the top 2 at this point, and that was true before today and after today.