“We are very much alive!” exclaimed Joe Biden after his stunning victory that dominated the South Carolina primaries.
Held just a couple of days before Super Tuesday, Biden desperately needed that victory in South Carolina, after his terrible showing in both New Hampshire and Iowa, and having finished a distant second in Nevada. Winning in dramatic fashion in South Carolina gave Biden tremendous momentum before Super Tuesday.
A few hours before the major primary, Biden received endorsements from both Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, both of whom surprised many by suspending their campaigns. The three had been vying for the position as the moderate alternative to Bernie Sanders. Those two endorsements, along with Biden’s performance in South Carolina, catapulted the former Vice President into front-runner status once again. After political pundits and commentators had already written off Biden’s campaign, he stunned everyone by pulling out a stunning victory on Super Tuesday.
Biden also won in Texas, a state where he had trailed Sanders before receiving an endorsement from Beto O’Rourke. And he won in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, Maine and Minnesota. Bernie Sanders won the most delegate-rich state in the country, California, in addition to winning in Utah, Colorado, and his home state of Vermont.
Biden’s victory on Tuesday has given him 380 additional state delegates, an enormous boost in the number needed to become the Democratic nominee. Before the results in California could be counted, the New York Times estimated that Biden had 433 delegates to Sanders’ 388.
This election season’s Super Tuesday contest provides us with a clear indicator of where the election is headed. The race for the Democratic nomination will come down to a contest between Sanders and Biden. We’ve already seen how Bernie Sanders pulled off victory after victory in the first three primaries, while Biden’s performance in those first three contests was most forgettable.
So how did Biden secure this sudden victory? The key lies in voter demographics. For Biden, it was the strength of the African American vote that brought him victory in South Carolina. 61% of African Americans in South Carolina voted for Joe Biden. This is similar to the way Latinos in Nevada brought Bernie Sanders a landslide victory in Nevada. Candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar both failed to gain support from African Americans, and thus struggled to gain traction in their candidacies.
Voter demographics was not only the factor, however. Biden’s personality also helped him win points among voters. In South Carolina, his humanity and faith provided a key boost, after he discussed in his CNN town hall the way his faith helped him cope with his son’s death. Perseverance, which has always been an important aspect of Biden’s life, shone through. He always branded himself as someone who gets back up after being knocked down. This is what helped to bring Biden back into the race. His speech in Los Angeles after his victory on Super Tuesday pretty well summed up his comeback: “For those that have been knocked down, counted out, left behind, this is your campaign. Just a few days ago the press and the pundits declared the campaign dead!”
Voters now have the choice between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. A choice between a moderate seen by many as a “unifying figure,” and a self-described democratic socialist who has stirred concerns within the hierarchy of the Democratic National Committee. Biden now needs to build on the success he has achieved, modernize his rudimentary campaign strategy, and address his proclivity for gaffe-prone statements.
Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, cannot afford to take Biden lightly. He will need all the tools at his disposal to win the Democratic nomination.