NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Joe Biden is confident he is poised for victory in Saturday's first-in-the-South primary, just weeks after his third presidential campaign left New Hampshire badly wounded and close to broke.
The question is whether Biden is correct that a win in South Carolina would propel him toward a strong showing in the Super Tuesday slate of 14 states days later. Biden's top rivals, Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, have dwarfed him in organization and spending, and early voting had begun in many states, including delegate-rich California and Texas, before Biden’s campaign could reestablish its footing.
In Biden’s ideal, a South Carolina rebound would blunt the momentum of Sanders, the progressive favorite and national delegate leader who topped voting in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, while gutting the case for Bloomberg, a billionaire whose late entry to the race last fall was almost entirely pegged on the idea that Biden would collapse after losing Iowa and New Hampshire.
“If you send me out of South Carolina with a victory, there will be no stopping us,” Biden declared earlier this week, after getting the coveted endorsement of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American on Capitol Hill and the most influential Democrat in South Carolina.
“We will win the nomination,” Biden continued. “We will win the presidency. And most importantly, we will end the fear that so many people in this country have of a second term for Donald Trump.” On Saturday, Biden insisted he didn't have to win by any particular margin, but he still embraced the obvious: “The bigger you win anywhere, the better bump you get.” And, visiting a precinct in Greenville, he predicted a long primary regardless: “I don’t think it’ll even be over after Super Tuesday. I think it’s going to go on to states that are ones that I feel very good about.”
If he’s right, it would validate the argument Biden laid out from the start: that he, a 77-year-old former vice president with deep ties across the party, was the only candidate positioned to build a coalition across a racially, ethnically and ideologically diverse party — and that such a path didn’t require winning in overwhelmingly white Iowa or New Hampshire.
Just what that would look like over the next few weeks, of course, is much more complicated, and Biden aides and supporters know he’d be heavily dependent on favorable media reaction to South Carolina to amplify his message, given his financial constraints. In a sign of his bullishness, Biden is already scheduled to appear on multiple morning shows the day after the South Carolina primary.
“It’s such a tight turnaround to Super Tuesday,” said Steve Schale, who is running a super PAC supporting Biden.