(CN) – After picking up a key endorsement Wednesday and the top spot in the latest statewide poll, former Vice President Joe Biden is running hot ahead of this weekend’s South Carolina primary.
Congressman Jim Clyburn, the so-called “kingmaker of South Carolina” politics, issued his much-anticipated endorsement just three days before Saturday’s primary, calling on Palmetto State Democrats to “stand with Joe Biden.”
“Joe will build on President Obama’s legacy, protect and expand the Affordable Care Act and take on the NRA,” Clyburn said in an endorsement video posted to Twitter.
Clyburn, the highest ranking African American in Congress, joins South Carolina’s last two Democratic governors, Jim Hodges and Dick Riley, and over 180 state leaders in backing Biden. Clyburn’s endorsement figures to prop up Biden’s chances with black voters, who make up more than half of South Carolina Democrats.
“I know Joe Biden. I know his character, his heart, and his record. Joe Biden has stood for the hard-working people of South Carolina. We know Joe. But more importantly, he knows us,” Clyburn said.
Pundits have pinned South Carolina as a veritable litmus test for the longevity of Biden’s campaign, and an indicator of his ability to win over minority voters as the race turns to Super Tuesday and more diverse electorates.
Biden himself has called the first primary in the South the “firewall” for his presidential chances and has made South Carolina the main focus of the early voting states. During a campaign speech Wednesday in North Charleston, Biden called Clyburn a “powerful moral clarity.”
Biden struggled in Iowa and New Hampshire but rebounded with a second place finish last weekend in Nevada. He currently trails Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg in secured delegates.
Biden’s exceptional day on the campaign trail continued as a Clemson University poll pegged him with a double-digit lead over California billionaire Tom Steyer.
Taken before Clyburn’s endorsement, Clemson’s Palmetto Poll found Biden doubling up Steyer 35% to 17%, followed by Sanders (13%), Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Buttigieg at 8%, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (4%), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (2%) and 12% undecided.
While former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg isn’t on the South Carolina ballot, 92% of respondents said they had heard of him but only 31% said they have a positive view of the billionaire.
When asked about the nation’s most pressing issues, 32% responded “poor leadership in government” and 22% said health care. Just over half (53%) said the impeachment trial had no effect on their decision to vote and 40% said the trial made them more likely to vote.
Clemson polled 650 people between Feb. 17-25 through a mix of phone calls and online panels, and the poll has a 3.8% margin of error. Over 50% of respondents were black, 65% were female and 64% were over the age of 55.
A separate poll released last week also shows Biden on top in South Carolina, but with a slimmer 5% margin over Sanders.
Earlier this week he promised to end racist redlining practices as part of his $640 billion housing campaign plank and last night during a Democratic debate in Charleston, Biden touted his record of supporting civil rights and claimed he has “worked like the devil to get the African American vote.” The 77-year-old also vowed to appoint the first black justice to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I expect to win the South Carolina vote and the African American vote here and across the country,” Biden said.