Biden Way Ahead of Democratic Rivals in South Carolina

Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden meets with supporters before speaking at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding on Aug. 9, 2019, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/John Locher)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) – A new poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden is dominating his Democratic rivals in the early primary state of South Carolina, leading his closet competitor by nearly 20 points.

A poll released Wednesday by Change Research shows South Carolinians who say they are likely to vote in the Democratic primaries next year favor Biden, and it’s not close.

Biden is ahead of his closest Democratic contender, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, by 19% in the Palmetto State, according to the poll.

The former vice president had the support of 36% of those surveyed, while Warren had 17% and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont had 16%.

As the first southern state to vote in the 2020 presidential primaries, South Carolina has hosted several campaign events for numerous Democratic presidential hopefuls in the last year.

The 1,209 registered voters in South Carolina who were surveyed include 521 “likely” Democratic primary voters who were asked a variety of questions related to campaign issues and the party’s nomination contest.

The poll shows Biden has a 30-point lead among black voters, with 45% support, followed by Sanders and California Senator Kamala Harris, each with 15%. South Carolina has the largest African-American electorate among early primary states.

The primary race is closer among white voters in the state. Warren is currently leading among that group with 26%, ahead of Biden’s 24% and Sanders’ 16%.

The only age group Biden does not lead is among 18-34 years old. Sanders has the most support among those voters at 30%, compared to 26% for Warren and 18% for Biden.

The recent Democratic debates don’t appear to have hurt Biden’s standing much in South Carolina. The latest poll shows only a single-point drop in voter support for Biden compared to surveys conducted before the debates, in which the frontrunner was a frequent target.

As the top Democratic candidate in most states, Biden faced a series of criticisms from challengers during the debates, including questions from Harris about comments on past work with segregationist senators and his flip-flopping on repealing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on using taxpayer money to pay for most abortions.

Biden chose South Carolina as the location where he addressed in July his controversial past remarks on public school busing and segregationists. He said he decided to deliver the apology in the state because he wanted to do so where the audience was most likely to be offended by his prior remarks.

Palmetto State voters head to the primary polls on Feb. 29, 2020, just three days before Super Tuesday, when 14 other states hold primaries.

Change Research says it surveyed 1,209 registered voters found through targeted online advertisements, to create the recent dataset. The margin of error in the poll is 2.8%.

But while the news was good for Biden in South Carolina, two other polls released Wednesday painted a different picture.

The Economist/YouGov weekly tracking poll puts Biden just one point ahead of Warren nationally, as the senator from Massachusetts continues to outpace Sanders. The survey of 1,500 U.S. citizens was conducted Aug. 10-13.

But before Biden, Warren or Sanders get too comfortable in the top three, the latest Hill-HarrisX poll indicates support from likely Democratic voters is slipping for all three – and rising for lower-tier candidates.

Support for Biden fell three points from an identical poll two weeks ago, while Sanders dipped four points and Warren dropped two. But Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and best-selling author Marianne Williamson saw 1 to 2-point gains.

Meanwhile, the poll of 451 Democratic and Democratic-leaning independent voters found the number of undecided voters ticked back up to 10%.

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