Biden campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa
Biden campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa (Photo: Gage Skidmore, reproduced under Creative Commons license)

In a new poll of South Car­oli­na vot­ers released fol­low­ing the results of Saturday’s Neva­da cau­cus­es, Joe Biden holds a clear lead over his Demo­c­ra­t­ic rivals.

The sur­vey by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling (NPI’s pub­lic opin­ion research part­ner) shows the for­mer Vice President’s sup­port at 36%. Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders came a dis­tant sec­ond, at 21%. No oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date broke into the dou­ble digits.

This poll bucks the trend of pre­vi­ous sur­veys in the Pal­met­to State (which had Biden and Sanders with­in a few points of each oth­er), indi­cat­ing that the “come­back” loud­ly pro­claimed by Biden’s cam­paign after his (dis­tant) sec­ond-place fin­ish in Neva­da might be more than just hot air.

Biden’s rise in the polls seems to be dri­ven in large part by a col­lapse for Tom Stey­er; the Cal­i­forn­ian billionaire’s sup­port has dropped by more than half to 7%.

This would seem to indi­cate two things:

  • first­ly, that Biden’s result in Neva­da was good enough to reas­sure vot­ers look­ing for an alter­na­tive to Bernie Sanders that Biden is their man;
  • and sec­ond, that Tom Steyer’s tac­tic of spend­ing inor­di­nate sums on TV and Inter­net cam­paign ads – like he did in Neva­da, to no avail – is not working.

Biden’s lead in South Car­oli­na stems from the over­whelm­ing sup­port of black vot­ers. While the race is very tight between the can­di­dates among white vot­ers (Sanders sits at 22%, Biden at 20%, War­ren and Buttigieg at 15%), Biden dom­i­nates among African Amer­i­cans, with 50% sup­port­ing him.

Biden has spent his entire cam­paign empha­siz­ing his role in the admin­is­tra­tion of America’s first black pres­i­dent, and also has rela­tion­ships with­in the black com­mu­ni­ty that go back half a cen­tu­ry to his time as a coun­ty coun­cil mem­ber and then a Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor from Delaware.

Biden’s team should not rest on their lau­rels in South Car­oli­na, though. Bernie Sanders, who cement­ed his front-run­ner sta­tus in Neva­da, also proved in that con­test that he is capa­ble of gath­er­ing enor­mous sup­port from minor­i­ty vot­ers. Sanders cur­rent­ly leads nation­al­ly among black, Lati­no and Asian vot­ers, and has been the most pop­u­lar can­di­date among young African Amer­i­cans for months.

Sanders’ sup­port among young peo­ple is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant for South Car­oli­na, as a crit­i­cal part of his suc­cess in Neva­da seems to have been the fact that moti­vat­ed young sup­port­ers of col­or per­suad­ed their par­ents to sup­port him – which result­ed in him out­per­form­ing his polling by over 10%.

If Sanders’ grass­roots move­ment can repro­duce that phe­nom­e­non, he may give Biden more of a run for his mon­ey than the Vice Pres­i­dent is expecting.

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