Joe Biden claims victory in South Carolina Democratic primary

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9:40 p.m.

Joe Biden has declared his presidential campaign back in a big way before a throng of supporters elated with his big win in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary.

Biden said Saturday night: “For all of those of you who’ve been knocked down, counted out and left behind, this is your campaign.”

The 77-year-old former vice president was celebrating his first nominating contest victory in three bids for the White House. It comes after dismal finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire and a distant second-place finish in Nevada.

Biden cast himself as the candidate who can represent “the soul of the Democratic Party” and “restore the soul of the nation.”

His win renews his confidence, but it will be immediately tested Tuesday, when 14 states hold primaries and Mike Bloomberg is on the ballot for the first time.

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9:30 p.m.

Tom Steyer is dropping out of the Democratic presidential race.

The billionaire activist made the announcement Saturday night after a disappointing finish in the South Carolina primary. Joe Biden notched his first primary win in the state, while Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders finished second.

Steyer said that at this point, “honestly, I can’t see a path where I can win the presidency.”

He said he got into the race because he didn’t think racial injustice was being addressed in the country. He said he will continue to work to address that issue. He also thanked his supporters and pledged that he would never forget South Carolina, where he focused most of his presidential efforts.

“The people who have endorsed me have stood up in a very red state where I have seen things that have broken my heart,” Steyer said.

He added: “I’m not leaving. We are already working to figuring out ways to make sure that we stay in South Carolina.”

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9:05 p.m.

An aide to Tom Steyer says the Democratic presidential candidate is set to make an announcement Saturday night.

Details of the announcement were not immediately clear.

He finished far behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in South Carolina’s primary.

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8:50 p.m.

Mike Bloomberg’s Democratic presidential campaign is ignoring Joe Biden’s South Carolina win and emphasizing that the only states they’re competing in have yet to vote.

Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said Saturday night that “Bloomberg has not been on the ballot yet.” He added that Bloomberg is “the only candidate to campaign in all fourteen Super Tuesday states over the last two months, and we look forward to Tuesday.”

The former New York mayor was not on the ballot in South Carolina and instead spent Saturday campaigning in Virginia and North Carolina, two states that vote Tuesday.

President Donald Trump offered his own thoughts on Biden’s South Carolina win with a tweet calling it “the end of Mini Mike Bloomberg’s Joke of a campaign” and charging that Bloomberg had Biden “split up his very few voters.” Trump’s comments echo those of some Democrats who say Bloomberg should drop out and allow Biden to consolidate moderate voters in order to keep the nomination away from Sanders.

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8:45 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is trying to take his second-place finish in South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary in stride.

Addressing thousands of supporters at Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach on Saturday night, Sanders noted that he’d won New Hampshire and Nevada and secured a virtual tie for first in Iowa.

“But you can’t win ‘em all,” Sanders said. “A lot of states out there, and tonight we did not win in South Carolina.”

As the crowd booed, Sanders added, “That will not be the only defeat. There are a lot of states in this country, and nobody wins them all.”

He congratulated former Vice President Joe Biden on winning South Carolina, then said he was looking to Virginia, which is one of 14 states voting in three days on “Super Tuesday.”

Sanders at one point had predicted victory in South Carolina, but stopped saying that as the vote neared and polls showed Biden pulling away.

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8:40 p.m.

Shortly after congratulating Joe Biden for winning the South Carolina primary, his Democratic presidential rival Elizabeth Warren accused him of being too eager to cut deals with Republicans.

Speaking in Houston on Saturday, Warren said Biden was too willing to “trade good ideas for bad ones.”

Warren says Vermont Bernie Sanders has good ideas but also a 30-year record in which “he consistently calls for things that fail to get done” and opposes things he fails to stop.

And former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Warren says, believes his wealth “entitles him to be the president.” She alleges he would “govern to protect himself and his rich friends over everyone else.”

Warren acknowledged the first four contests in the Democratic primary had not gone well for her campaign but pledged to fight for as many delegates as possible on Super Tuesday.

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8:35 p.m.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren says her presidential campaign is moving forward to Super Tuesday after falling short in another primary.

Speaking at a rally Saturday night in Houston, Warren congratulated former Vice President Joe Biden for winning the South Carolina primary. She says the first four contests hadn’t gone exactly as she hoped.

Warren says her campaign “is built for the long haul.”

She also says full results from Super Tuesday may take days to emerge but will be critical to deciding the Democratic presidential nominee.

Warren had her best finish of the primary season in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, finishing third. She finished fourth in both New Hampshire and Nevada and could finish worse than that in South Carolina.

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8:25 p.m.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez is cautioning Democrats that it’s still early in their presidential primary season after Joe Biden’s victory in South Carolina.

Speaking at a North Carolina Democratic Party fundraising gala on Saturday night, Perez noted that to win the nomination, a Democrat must win 1,991 delegates — and only a fraction of those have been allocated in the party’s first four primaries.

“I used to run marathons,” he said. “We’re at, like, mile three or four of the marathon.”

Perez said that “we have a long way to go” and noted that about a third of the delegates will be allocated three days from now, when 14 states and one U.S. territory vote in the March 3 Super Tuesday contest.

Perez touted the field of “remarkably qualified candidates,” and downplayed the contentious debates, telling the crowd to go back and look at the “game film” from the 2008 South Carolina debate with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

Perez also insisted that, like in 2008 when “we all came together,” the party will unite again after this primary to defeat Donald Trump.

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8:20 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar is looking ahead to Super Tuesday after Joe Biden’s victory in South Carolina.

In a fundraising email with the subject line “Tonight,” the Minnesota senator on Saturday thanked her team and said her “scrappy homegrown campaign has grown into a powerful nationwide movement.” But, she says, “there is still a long way to go.”

Biden easily won South Carolina’s primary, with Bernie Sanders coming in second. It was too early to determine the order of the others.

Klobuchar finished in a better-than-expected third place in New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state. But a week and a half later, she ended up sixth in Nevada.

Klobuchar has pushed back on suggestions that she should drop out of the race amid concerns that multiple moderate candidates are splitting the vote.

She has said she’s staying in at least through Super Tuesday, when her home state is among the 14 that will vote.

Klobuchar also has scheduled a campaign event Tuesday in Missouri, which holds its primary March 10.

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8:10 p.m.

Fresh off his first-ever primary victory, former Vice President Joe Biden is getting a Super Tuesday campaign trail boost from one of his highest-level backers.

Biden’s presidential campaign announced Saturday that House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn would campaign Sunday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, along with Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin.

Biden was declared the victor in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, a contest that came just days after Clyburn publicly announced his support.

But the top black member of Congress and kingmaker of South Carolina’s Democratic political circles made it clear he felt Biden’s campaign needed a retooling, saying earlier Saturday that he saw a need for more aggressive fundraising in later stages of the campaign.

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8:05 p.m.

Bernie Sanders has won second place in South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary, a respectable showing in a state dominated by Joe Biden.

The Vermont senator had won the past two contests in Nevada and New Hampshire. He also tied for first with former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg in Iowa.

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, is set to address supporters later Saturday night at a rally in Virginia, where scattered boos were heard as Biden was announced as the winner in South Carolina.

Biden’s win could work to blunt Sanders’ momentum heading into Super Tuesday, when 14 states and American Samoa weigh in on the race.

It’s Biden’s first primary win in the 2020 election season, with Sanders garnering the most votes in the first three contests.

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7:35 p.m.

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has endorsed Joe Biden’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination after the former president’s victory in the South Carolina primary.

McAuliffe said Saturday on CNN that he had been considering the decision but wanted to see who “wins the heart of the African American community.” A majority of South Carolina Democratic voters are black.

McAuliffe gives Biden another establishment Democratic endorsement. A former national party chairman and prodigious fundraiser, McAuliffe joins Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine in endorsing Biden ahead of their state’s Super Tuesday primary next week.

Dorothy McAuliffe, Terry’s wife, already had endorsed and campaigned for Biden.

The Biden campaign hopes that the slew of high-profile endorsers provides some counter to billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s advertising deluge that Biden cannot compete with. Bloomberg’s central case has been that Biden is too weak to win the nomination and defeat President Donald Trump in November.

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7:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is weighing in on Democratic rival Joe Biden’s primary win in South Carolina, saying it should mark the end of Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign.

Trump tweeted shortly after Biden was declared the winner of the first-in-the-South primary Saturday. The president said that Biden’s win “should be the end” of Bloomberg’s “Joke of a campaign.”

The billionaire Bloomberg wasn’t on the ballot in South Carolina. He skipped the first four nominating states to focus on “Super Tuesday” instead, when 14 states and American Samoa vote next week.

Trump is keenly focused on the Democratic nomination fight, and he mentions the race often, including earlier Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he predicted that Biden would have a “very big win today.

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7:20 p.m.

Bernie Sanders’ supporters gathering for a rally in Virginia offered scattered boos as Joe Biden was announced as the winner of the South Carolina primary.

Much of the crowd was still arriving for a rally set to begin at 8 p.m. ET at a gymnasium at Virginia Wesleyan University when a projection screen tuned to CNN showed the former vice president predicted to win South Carolina.

It’s Biden’s first primary win in the 2020 election season, with Sanders garnering the most votes in the first three contests.

Some Sanders supporters who had counted down the final seconds before polls closed began booing at the results, though that faded shortly.

Shara Iglesias, a 25-year-old junior studying education at nearby Norfolk State University said she thinks Sanders, a Vermont senator, will win Virginia, which votes in three days on “Super Tuesday.”

Iglesias said, “I think he’s going to do a lot better here.”

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7:10 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is thanking South Carolina voters after his victory in the state’s Democratic presidential primary.

Biden tweeted Saturday night shortly after the polls closed: “Thank you, South Carolina!” He says, “To all those who have been knocked down, counted out, and left behind — this is your campaign.”

Biden’s South Carolina watch party erupted when The Associated Press and television networks called the state’s primary for him.

The Columbia scene, with more than a thousand supporters filling the University of South Carolina’s volleyball gymnasium, was quite different compared to that in Iowa and New Hampshire just weeks ago.

Biden’s Iowa crowd was late arriving and obviously relieved when a meltdown of the caucus count spared Biden having to acknowledge his fourth-place finish. In New Hampshire, Biden wasn’t even there for his fifth-place finish, having bailed on the state to speak in South Carolina.

Biden finished his tweet by saying, “Together, we will win this nomination and beat Donald Trump.”

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7 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has won South Carolina’s Democratic primary.

It was his first victory in three tries at the Democratic nomination, and it came during the fourth Democratic primary contest of the 2020 election season.

Biden’s win could work to blunt front-runner Bernie Sanders’ momentum heading into Super Tuesday, when 14 states and American Samoa weigh in on the race.

Only Biden and California billionaire Tom Steyer planned to mark primary night in the state, as the rest of the field stumped across the spectrum of Super Tuesday states that vote next week.

About 40% of voters in South Carolina picked health care as the top issue, while 22% said the economy and jobs are most important. That’s according to an AP VoteCast survey of the electorate. Fourteen percent of voters identified climate change.

Close to 9 in 10 Democratic voters said it’s important for their nominee to be a strong leader.

UPDATE (7 p.m.): CBS News projects Joe Biden as the winner of the South Carolina Democratic primary

Get up-to-date South Carolina Primary coverage here.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina primary is certain to be a fork in the road for Democrats’ 2020 presidential nominating contest. But there’s no reliable map showing where voters’ choices might lead once the state’s voters — the first 2020 contest where black voters hold the strongest sway — have their say.

Here are some key questions ahead of the first-in-the-South primary on Saturday:

Data pix.

FOR BIDEN, A FIREWALL OR A SPRINGBOARD?

Former Vice President Joe Biden is the clear favorite, with strong advantages among black voters and white moderates. A similar winner’s aura developed for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Nevada. The question may be how close Biden can come to replicating Sanders’ blowout win in the West’s first caucuses. He needs a big win, bigly.

Biden has always called South Carolina his “firewall,” perhaps unwittingly admitting that his campaign would need the state to survive. Yet over a week of campaigning, Biden and some aides found themselves talking not about a “firewall” but a “springboard” or “launching pad,” as the state was for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2008.

Biden had one of his better debates and a strong CNN town hall, he got many adoring crowds (all of them reminded that he was Barack Obama’s vice president) and an endorsement from Rep. Jim Clyburn, the rare political figure whose backing can move votes. Biden also watched Sanders struggle with the front-runner’s mantle while billionaire Mike Bloomberg suffered more fallout from his own uneven debate performances.

Still, there are no guarantees for how a South Carolina win for Biden plays forward into Super Tuesday. Early voting in California and Texas has been ongoing, potentially buffering both Sanders and Bloomberg and limiting Biden’s potential rebound.

CAN BERNIE IMPROVE AMONG BLACK VOTERS?

Sanders’ insurgent 2016 presidential campaign met its undoing in South Carolina, even if the Vermont senator stayed in the race through the end of the primary calendar.

It’s easy to forget amid all the talk of Sanders as the 2020 front-runner that he started that 2016 campaign quite well, too. He battled Hillary Clinton to a draw in Iowa, trounced her in New Hampshire and lost a hotly contested Nevada caucus.

But in South Carolina, Clinton pummeled him by more than 40 points, earning the support of more than 3 out of 4 African American voters. She replicated that success across a racially diverse Super Tuesday slate, and Sanders could never catch up.

For 2020, Sanders has been more intentional about courting nonwhite voters. That turned his 2016 Nevada deficit into a huge win last Saturday, and it has him well positioned in California and Texas, Super Tuesday states that combine for more than 600 out of the 1,991 delegates required for the nomination.

Given that strength, Sanders doesn’t necessarily have to win the black vote, but he might need to narrow Biden’s advantages.

DOES SOUTH CAROLINA WINNOW THE FIELD?

Biden has said for months: “You can’t become the Democratic nominee without overwhelming support from black and brown voters.” That’s an exaggeration. It's certainly true that any nominee with a nearly all-white base has no shot at the nomination. That could spell the beginning of the end for several candidates: former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

A late-week Buttigieg turn illuminated their challenge. The 38-year-old, who has faced considerable pressure over his dealings with the black residents of his Indiana city, had scheduled a roundtable with several black South Carolina mayors. The campaign canceled the event once several of the mayors bailed on the meeting after Clyburn, the most influential Democrat in South Carolina and the highest-ranking black member of Congress, endorsed Biden.

Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Warren could fall short of capturing delegates in South Carolina, forcing a new round of questions about their ability to build a coalition that looks like the Democratic Party. But presidential campaigns usually don’t end until the money runs out, so the question isn’t whether any of them drop out after South Carolina — they almost certainly won’t — it’s what their donors decide about what South Carolina means in the overall process.

WHAT ABOUT THE WHITE DEMOCRATIC VOTERS?

Black South Carolinians get much of the spotlight, and deservedly so since it’s the first Democratic contest with an often-determinative black contingent.

But a third or more of the electorate Saturday is likely to be white, and in the South, that group leans more moderate or at least pragmatic than the other three states.

How they decide among the many non-Sanders candidates will be telling. And it’s worth noting that white South Carolina Democrats, because they share a state party with so many African Americans, are more likely than white Democrats in overwhelmingly white Iowa or New Hampshire to consider candidates’ appeal across racial lines.

“I have heard several (voters) who have changed their votes in the past couple of days, who like other candidates but are going to support Joe Biden because they feel he has a better chance to win," said James Smith, South Carolina Democrats’ 2018 nominee for governor and a Biden supporter.

Beyond South Carolina, Biden needs that same kind of consolidation away from Bloomberg, who isn’t on the South Carolina ballot. But he drew much of his support nationally from more moderate voters, many of whom are white and who saw Biden as weak heading into Iowa and afterward.

STEYER: A BILLIONAIRE’S TEST FOR BLOOMBERG

Bloomberg’s staggering spending on Super Tuesday states has overshadowed the fact that there’s another billionaire in the race.

Tom Steyer has topped the spending charts in February contests. Yet the California environmental activist has yet to secure a single delegate in Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada.

He’s placed special effort on South Carolina, with some polls suggesting he got a foothold. But he also could recede — as he did in Nevada — if the apparent Biden momentum builds. That could be a harbinger for Bloomberg on Super Tuesday.

The former New York mayor doesn’t explicitly say it, but his entire campaign has hinged on the idea that he’d become the competent, centrist stand-in once Biden collapsed in the early states. But if Steyer’s mega-spending can’t mount a notable delegate haul in any early state, it may not bode well for Bloomberg’s return-on-investment as he awaits voters’ judgment on Super Tuesday.

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