By MCKENZIE LINDBERG and COLE SMITHSON
Democratic presidential candidates are making their final rounds in South Carolina as they head into Saturday’s primary, with former Vice President Joe Biden pinning his hopes on a big win to jumpstart his campaign and prove he is the most formidable candidate to take on President Trump in November.
Biden holds a 20-point lead, 36% to 16%, over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to a Monmouth University Poll of 454 voters conducted Feb. 23-25. The Emerson Poll, conducted by Emerson College Feb. 26-27, showed Biden with 41% of the vote and Sanders trailing at 25%. Both polls have a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4%.
The Emerson poll uptick came after Biden received endorsements from 6th District Rep. Jim Clyburn, a veteran lawmaker who holds influence in the state, two former governors and other key South Carolina leaders. Biden is hoping his lead is enough to secure a victory in South Carolina and give him additional momentum going into Super Tuesday.
Sanders is also looking to Super Tuesday, where he believes he can gather enough delegates to hold a commanding lead among the field. On Friday at a rally at Columbia’s downtown Finlay Park, Sanders predicted he would win South Carolina and the general election in November.
“We are united in understanding that we have got to defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of America,” Sanders said. “We have to defeat him, and we will defeat him.”
At Finlay Park, hundreds of supporters showed up to hear Sanders discuss the policies he will implement if elected as president in November.
Stars from Danny Glover to “Killer Mike” Michael Render from the hip-hop group Run the Jewels spoke in support of Sanders before the Vermont senator took the stage.
“I think the speakers before him were all very good,” said Michael Duane, a fourth-year advertising student at UofSC and Sanders supporter. “I think he’s the only candidate with integrity, the only candidate that’s going to deliver on his promises, the only candidate offering a change to the status quo.”
American philanthropist and democratic candidate Tom Steyer, who’s polling in third place with 15%, is the only other candidate with double-digit percentage points. He is competing against Sanders for second place, and he traveled to Sumter on Friday before heading to historically black Allen University later in the day.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, at 8%, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, at 6% and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, at 4%, have struggled to gain the support of African American voters in South Carolina – who make up more than 60% of the state’s voters.
Warren hosted a Canvass Launch in Aiken on Friday afternoon, about an hour’s drive from the state capital. Later Friday evening, Buttigieg will hold a “get out and vote” rally at 7:30 p.m. in Columbia at The Senate.
Twelve names will be on voters’ ballots in Saturday’s primary. Five of those have withdrawn from the race: Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, John K. Delaney, Deval Patrick and Andrew Yang. The remaining candidates include Biden, Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer and Warren.