Path to victory: Biden must prove South Carolina was no fluke
Demetri Sevastopulo, the FT’s Washington bureau chief, and our political reporting team have short analyses of what each of the main candidates needs to achieve on Super Tuesday. Here’s Demetri’s take on former vice-president Joe Biden.
The former Delaware senator who spent eight years in the White House as Barack Obama’s vice-president has seen a dramatic turnaround in his political fortunes over the past three days. His campaign had been on life support after he came fourth in the Iowa caucuses and finished even lower in the New Hampshire primary.
When the South Carolina primary came around on Saturday, however, Biden proved the naysayers wrong. He won a crushing victory over Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who had been the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, and left his moderate rivals in the dust. His success sparked the departure of Tom Steyer, the billionaire climate change activist, and Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator. Most importantly, Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend mayor who won Iowa, also quit the race. Biden won a cascade of endorsements, including Buttigieg and Klobuchar, and also former El Paso lawmaker Beto O’Rourke.
While Biden has had the best three days of his political career – sparked by his first victory in a primary of his three efforts to win the nomination starting as far back as 1988 – he still faces big challenges. Mr Sanders, a self-declared socialist who establishment Democrats believe would lose to Donald Trump, remains ahead in national polls, and particularly in California, which is the most delegate-rich state to vote on Super Tuesday, but the state has had early voting for several weeks, which might limit the bounce he receives from South Carolina.
But Biden is hoping that his South Carolina win, which was driven by African-American support, will help him win southern states with significant black electorates, such as Alabama and North Carolina, and to a lesser extent Virginia. He is also hoping for a big batch of delegates in Texas, the second most important state today where he campaigned on Monday night with Klobuchar and O’Rourke. Biden campaign staffers who looked glum after Iowa and New Hampshire now have a real spring in their step, and are hoping that the “Joementum” following his South Carolina victory will help the 78-year-old strengthen his “Ridin with Biden” voter coalition.