March 1 (UPI) — Joe Biden is entering March’s delegate-rich Super Tuesday “like a lion” after a decisive victory over Democratic nominee frontrunner Bernie Sanders in South Carolina on the last day of February on Saturday.
The former vice president received 2 1/2 times as many votes as the Democratic socialist senator from Vermont who had won the popular vote in the first three elections in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. These four states represent 7.1 percent of the total delegates to be awarded.
A third of the convention delegates — 1,357 — will be awarded on Super Tuesday. It will take 1,617 total delegates to earn the nomination on the first ballot in the convention in Milwaukee, Wis., and a spot against President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.
Biden has slightly surpassed Sanders in popular votes for the four states. Each candidate has received roughly one-fourth of the votes. The bulk of Biden’s are from South Carolina, of which nearly 50 percent of the votes cast were by African-Americans, according to exit polls. In the first state with a majority of black voters, Biden received around 60 percent compared with 20 percent for Sanders.
Sanders’ lead for pledged delegates for the nomination was sliced dramatically to a 55-47 advantage, according to a CBS delegate tracker. Of the 55 delegates to be awarded in South Carolina, Biden earned 36 and Sanders won 11 with eight to be determined. None of the other seven candidates in the primary received a delegate.
Biden, who served as senator in Delaware for 36 years before vice president from 2009-17, received nearly half of the votes — 255,662 at 48.4 percent compared with 105,070 at 19.9 percent.
Billionaire Tom Steyer was third with 59,815 votes. But by receiving 11.3 percent of the votes, he failed to reach the threshold of 15 percent to receive delegates and he suspended his campaign Saturday night.
“This has been a great experience. I have zero regrets,” Steyer told supporters in South Carolina, where he spent $17 million in advertising.
Biden and Steyer were the only candidates in South Carolina on Saturday night.
“Just days ago, the press and pundits had declared this candidacy dead,” Biden also said in Columbia. “Because of you, the heart of the Democratic party, we just won and we won big because of you. We are very much alive.”
Biden had led the candidates in polling but after the first three elections, Sanders has become the frontrunner. He is favored by 29.6 percent compared with 18.88 percent for Biden, according to RealClearPolitics average from Feb. 19-27.
Biden emphasized that as a moderate he is the only one to defeat Trump.
“This is the moment to choose the path forward for our democracy,” Biden said two hours before the polls closed at 7 p.m. “If the Democrats nominate me, I believe I can beat Donald Trump, keep Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives as speaker, and take back the United States Senate.”
Despite also running for president in 1988 and 2008, Biden hadn’t won a primary before.
“We can say without fear of contradiction: the Bidens love you, man,” Biden said at the end of his speech.
Biden was joined on stage by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, who endorsed him earlier in the week in his state.
The other candidates had moved on from South Carolina.
“We did not win in South Carolina. That will not be the only defeat. There are a lot of states in this country and nobody can win them all,” Sanders said in Virginia Beach, Va., one of the states conducting primaries Tuesday. In the 2016 Democratic primary in South Carolina, Sanders captured 26 percent of the votes compared with eventual nominee Hillary Clinton with 73 percent.
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who earned the most delegates in the Iowa Caucus and has 26 overall, finished in fourth place with 43,484 votes and 8.2 percent in South Carolina.
“I want to thank the voters of South Carolina,” Buttigieg told supporters in Raleigh, N.C., where the primary also is Tuesday. “Especially the black voters of South Carolina who showed that famous Southern hospitality over the last year, welcoming us into their homes and churches and neighborhoods and businesses.”
Two Senators, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, are in a race with mainly Sanders to finish first in their states Tuesday.
“Results from South Carolina are coming in and I want to say congratulations to Vice President Biden. I’ll be the first to say that the first four contests haven’t gone exactly as I’d hoped,” Warren said at a rally in Houston.
In South Carolina, she received 7.1 percent of the vote with 37,285. She has eight delegates.
Klobuchar was much farther behind in South Carolina with 16,610 votes for 3.1 percent. She has seven delegates.
“And I want to start out by congratulating the Vice President on South Carolina, Klobuchar said. “And now we know that all eyes are on North Carolina.”
She was speaking at the Blue NC Celebration in Charlotte.
The only other candidate on the ballot was U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii with 6,749 votes at 1.3.
Billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who has bypassed the first four elections, is staking his chances and fortune on Super Tuesday. The former three-term New York City mayor and former Republican has blanketed the states in advertising as the other candidates focused on the earlier states.
He has poured $501 million into television, radio and digital advertising since entering the race four months ago, according to data from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.
“Mike is the only candidate to campaign in all 14 Super Tuesday states over the last two months and we look forward to Tuesday,” campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said. “Mike’s record of successfully leading and managing through crises and challenges is exactly what Americans are looking for in a new President.”
Bloomberg has recorded a three-minute national address on the coronavirus health crisis to be shown on CBS and NBC Sunday at approximately 8.30 p.m. ET.
The address is especially aimed at voters in Super Tuesday, including the states with the most delegates — California with 415 — as well as Texas with 228. Sanders is favored to win those states.
The other Super Tuesday states are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.
The last debate was before the South Carolina primary.
The next one will be on March 15 in Phoenix, two days before Arizona and Florida hold their primaries.
Bloomberg is already looking ahead to Florida, including campaigning in West Palm Beach on Super Tuesday.