Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden listens to the introductory speakers during a campaign event at Saint Augustine's University in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
GREENVILLE, S.C (Reuters) - Joe Biden was projected to win South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Saturday, reviving his faltering White House campaign and halting the surge of national front-runner Bernie Sanders, who appeared headed to a distant second-place finish.
Television networks and Edison Research, which conducted exit polls in South Carolina, projected Biden as the winner as soon as voting closed in the Southern state. Exit polls showed the former vice president beating Sanders among a wide range of demographic and ideological groups.
Biden needed a decisive win in South Carolina, where his popularity among black voters proved decisive in a state where more than half of the Democratic electorate is black, after poor showings in the first two nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The win gives him new momentum as the Democratic race to find a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump now broadens quickly, with Super Tuesday primaries in 14 states that will award one-third of the available national delegates in a single day.
Sanders, a progressive U.S. senator from Vermont who had become the national front-runner, appeared likely to finish second in the state. Tom Steyer, a billionaire-turned-activist who spent heavily in South Carolina, appeared likely to finish third.
Nearly eight of 10 voters in South Carolina said they have a favourable view of Biden, compared with five of 10 who see rival Sanders favourably, exit polls showed. The polls also found about six of 10 of South Carolina voters said influential black congressman James Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden on Wednesday was a factor in their decision.
About half want a candidate who will return to Democratic President Barack Obama’s policies, a key argument of Biden, who was Obama’s vice president.
Reporting by Joseph Ax and Trevor Hunnicutt in Greenville, South Carolina; Additional reporting by Simon Lewis in Saint George, South Carolina, Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Writing by John Whitesides and Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Jonathan Oatis