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Big win in South Carolina gives Biden's presidential campaign new life

This article is more than 12 months old

After black voters help resurrect his faltering White House bid, former VP takes aim at Bernie Sanders

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA: An outpouring of black voter support propelled Mr Joe Biden to a convincing victory in South Carolina's Democratic primary on Saturday, resurrecting his faltering White House bid and giving the former US vice-president a chance to claim he is the moderate alternative to front runner Bernie Sanders.

With 99 per cent of the precincts reporting, Mr Biden had 49 per cent of the vote and Mr Sanders was a distant second with 20 per cent, according to official state results.

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer had 11 per cent and all of the other contenders were well behind with single digits.

Edison Research estimated 530,000 votes were cast in the Democratic primary.

The decisive win gives Mr Biden a burst of momentum in the Democratic race to challenge Republican President Donald Trump, which broadens quickly with Super Tuesday primaries in 14 states in three days that will award one-third of the available national delegates.

It was the first primary win for Mr Biden, who is making his third run at the White House. He took aim at Mr Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont and self-described democratic socialist whose calls for a political revolution have rattled a Democratic establishment worried he is too far left to beat Mr Trump in November.

"Democrats want a nominee who is a Democrat," Mr Biden told cheering supporters, in a jab at Mr Sanders.

PROMISE

"Win big or lose, that's the choice. Most Americans don't want the promise of a revolution. They want more than promises, they want results."

Mr Biden beat Mr Sanders among a wide range of demographic and ideological groups, including those who said they were "very liberal," according to Edison Research exit polls. They showed Mr Biden, vice-president under former President Barack Obama, with 61 per cent of African-American support, with 17 per cent for Mr Sanders.

Mr Biden must now hope a flurry of media attention and his name recognition will help him in Super Tuesday states, where Mr Sanders' prolific fund-raising has helped him build bigger organisations and broadcast far more advertisements.

Mr Sanders leads opinion polls in delegate-rich California, where three million early votes have already been cast.

Mr Biden and all of the other Democratic contenders will also face competition for the first time on Super Tuesday from billionaire former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has blanketed the country with half a billion dollars in advertising. Mr Bloomberg skipped the first four state primaries.

But at least five states - Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Virginia - have big blocs of African-American voters that could help Mr Biden make a comeback.

Mr Biden's dominance in South Carolina raised questions about the continued viability of most of the other contenders. Former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg, senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar all were well behind in the state and have dwindling chances to mount a comeback.

As the vote count rolled in on Saturday, Mr Steyer, who had spent heavily in South Carolina to court black voters, ended his presidential bid. - REUTERS

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