‘It Ain’t Over, Man,’ Biden Says in South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former Vice President Joe Biden fled an election defeat in New Hampshire on Tuesday, returning to South Carolina hours before polls closed with a message for the experts and cable TV pundits who said his struggling campaign is finished.
“It ain’t over, man,” Biden said at his “launch party” near downtown Columbia as poll results showed him coming in fifth in the Granite State after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. With less than 10% of the vote, Biden was not on pace to win any delegates.
As primary results flooded in, Biden stood in front of South Carolina’s flag in a room decorated with signs saying “Fired Up Ready 4 Joe” and “Battle for the Soul of the Nation.”
“Tonight, I’ve just heard from the first two states, not all the nation,” he said. “Not half the nation, not a quarter of the nation. Not 10%. All right, that’s the opening bell. Not the closing bell. … Up till now, we haven’t heard from the most committed constituency in the Democratic Party — the African American community.”
For months now, Biden’s campaign has argued that the first two states in the party’s nomination process, both of which have overwhelmingly white populations, do not reflect the diversity of the country.
After his lackluster performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden is counting on a victory with a decisive margin Feb. 29 in South Carolina, which his campaign has long dubbed its “firewall” due to his support from African American voters who make up about two-thirds of the state’s Democratic primary electorate.
As poll results started to come in from New Hampshire, the men and women of the Bethlehem Baptist Church Mass Choir opened Biden’s campaign event with a rousing gospel rendition of “All in His Hands.”
“I put it all in his hands
“Whatever the problem, I put it all in his hands
“I know that he can solve them
“I put it all in his hands.”
Biden, who has deep ties to South Carolina, is still the front-runner here. But competition has become more intense as his two main rivals in the state, Sanders and California hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, have invested in a rapid-fire bombardment of TV and radio advertisements and set up strong networks of local grass-roots volunteers.
After securing 46% of the vote in a Post and Courier poll in May, Biden’s support dropped to 25% last month, with Sanders and Steyer not far behind, with 20% and 18%. No polls have come out of the state this month, but a national Quinnipiac poll released this week shows support for Biden among black voters dropping from 52% to 27% since the Iowa caucuses.
In an attempt to shift focus, a throng of more than 150 Biden supporters, including a crew of South Carolina state legislators, filed into an event space Tuesday night to send a message that the Biden campaign was not over.
Many crammed into the small hall said it was too early to write Biden off.
“His chances are just as good as day one,” said Kenneth Glover, chairman of the Orangeburg County Democratic Party, who has not made any endorsement but came to offer support. “We need someone to restore the integrity of the office.”
As the New Hampshire results began to come in, Glover said his expectations were not high.
“I would like to see him make third,” he said. “As long as he doesn’t finish in fifth.” (Biden appeared to be headed for fifth in incomplete returns.)
Asked why he thought Biden was performing poorly in the early states, Glover shook his head.
“I’m trying to figure it out myself,” he said. “I don’t have an answer.”
One of his companions said she liked Biden, but was undecided on whether he would get her vote.
Candice Caldwell, a community organizer for the Orangeburg County Democratic Party, said she was torn between Sanders and Biden, preferring Sanders’ policies on student loans and “Medicare for all,” but figuring Biden could have a better chance of beating President Trump. Still, she thought, Biden would do well in South Carolina.
“This is just the beginning,” she said.
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