After struggling in the three opening contests of the 2020 Democratic primaries, former Vice President Joe Biden — the onetime frontrunner in the race — appears poised for a major comeback on Saturday in the South Carolina primary. Such a comeback could be in the cards for Biden, if two separate polls of the state released on Wednesday are accurate. In one of the polls, according to a report by The Post and Courier newspaper, Biden has opened up a seemingly insurmountable 18-point lead in the state.
The poll, conducted by Clemson University, pegs Biden at 35 percent of the vote in South Carolina, more than doubling the support of second-place finisher Tom Steyer. Current frontrunner Bernie Sanders — the Vermont senator who won the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucus after finishing a close second in the Iowa caucus — placed third in the Clemson poll, with 13 percent support.
In order to receive pledged delegates in a Democratic primary or caucus, a candidate must exceed a 15 percent support threshold. The results of the Clemson poll show that, if Steyer’s support slips somewhat, Biden could sweep up all 54 available pledged delegates in the South Carolina primary
That result would catapult Biden back into the leader’s spot in the race, at least in terms of delegate count. Sanders currently leads with 45 delegates, followed by Pete Buttigieg with 25. Biden currently boasts 15 delegates, according to a count tallied by The New York Times.
Polls have long shown Biden to hold the widest lead in head-to-head general election matchups against Donald Trump, a key source of his appeal to Democratic voters. But Sanders has recently closed the “electability” gap on Biden, as he has risen to frontrunner status in the primary race. However, an academic study of voting patterns published this week suggested that Sanders’ lead against Trump may be a “mirage.”
A second South Carolina poll released on Wednesday also showed Biden with a wide lead, though it portrayed the race as somewhat narrower, as reported by Real Clear Politics.
In the poll conducted by Eastern Carolina University, Biden held an eight-point lead over Sanders, 31-23. But Steyer also surged in the ECU poll, taking 20 percent of the prospective vote in the survey. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren sat well back at eight percent, in fourth place.
A third poll released on Wednesday by Public Policy Polling showed essentially a two-person race — between Biden and Sanders — in the first southern state to vote. In that state, where African-American voters make up 60 percent of the Democratic electorate, Biden holds 36 percent support, according to PPP, with Sanders 15 points back. Warren places third at eight percent, according to PPP.