South Carolina: The make-or-break primary

At the CNN Democratic town hall in Charleston, South Carolina, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said that she is ready for a convention floor battle this summer if none of the Democratic candidates reach a delegate majority during the primaries.

Posted: Feb 27, 2020 5:51 PM
Updated: Feb 27, 2020 5:51 PM

Saturday will be a big day in South Carolina. With so many candidates in the Democratic competition, most of whom have sizable blocks of support, each state contest so far has turned into a hugely consequential day of voting. And the South Carolina primary will be no different.

For former Vice President Joe Biden, South Carolina means everything. The candidate whom many have called the "most electable" in the bunch struggled in Iowa, New Hampshire, and -- to a lesser extent -- in Nevada. Not only did he lose, but he lost badly in Iowa and New Hampshire, and placed a distant second in Nevada.

Meanwhile, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has propelled himself to the top of the heap, and with the rest of the candidates dividing up the vote, the Democratic Socialist from Vermont now finds himself in a position to win the nomination.

If Biden does not win in South Carolina, the state his campaign thinks will help him rebound, it could easily be the end of the race for him. South Carolina has been his so-called "firewall," and now that firewall has to hold. If the day ends with Sanders on top, or even a very close second, there will be considerable pressure on Biden to step down. The stakes are particularly high since the former vice president has not spent nearly as much time in other Super Tuesday states

A poor showing in South Carolina would dampen Biden's organizational enthusiasm and fundraising. With former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ramping up his television ad buys, and with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg showing no signs of packing up, the next few weeks could be rough if South Carolina doesn't live up to expectations for the Biden.

Fortunately for Biden, the last few days have been promising. He stood his ground on the fractious debate stage, displaying the kind of energy and righteous anger that have been lacking from many of his campaign performances. He had an extraordinarily moving moment during CNN's town hall, tearing up as he responded to a question from a pastor whose wife was killed in the 2015 Charleston church shooting. And South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, an influential voice in the state, offered Biden his formal endorsement.

If Biden can turn all of these good moments, as well as months of organizational efforts, into a decisive victory in South Carolina, he will put himself in much stronger standing for the next few rounds of voting.

n other words, his candidacy will seem plausible again. With many Democrats still fretting over the electability of Sanders and seeking a safer bet -- desperate to avoid a second term of President Donald Trump at all costs -- Biden still brings the gravitas and experience that voters may feel would make him better at governing than Trump. He is the most-known quantity in this campaign, and if he can survive the nomination process, he could pose a tough challenge to the President in swing states and suburban constituencies that are on the fence.

The other candidates also face high stakes moment in South Carolina, though the contests on Super Tuesday will be more important for them.

If Sanders can pull out a victory or come in a close second on Saturday, he will be in an excellent position to lock in the frontrunner position by the end of Super Tuesday. Such an outcome would give him the momentum to secure a huge number of delegates in California and Texas, making the others feel very far away from winning the nomination.

For Sanders, coming in a strong second would be almost as good as winning. It would show once again how formidable his campaign is, while encouraging Biden to stay in the race and thus continuing to split the non-Sanders delegate count.

A strong performance by Warren, who has promised to stay in this race until the convention, provided no candidate has received a delegate majority, could bolster her standing as a real progressive alternative to Sanders. She could be the champion of progressive causes in a way that generates less anxiety among Democratic leaders.

Obviously, a solid turnout for Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who continues to impress on the debate stage but still isn't pulling in large number of delegates, would keep her alive for Super Tuesday. She represents the most interesting, moderate alternative to Bloomberg and doesn't carry as much baggage of the former mayor.

Tom Steyer, who doesn't really have much of a chance of amassing many delegates, could show his chops if he wins enough votes from younger African American voters to undercut Biden's total. That could make him a key player in the weeks ahead.

Buttigieg also has a great deal to prove. His goal should be to do better than expected in South Carolina among African American voters, demonstrating that he does have the capacity to secure the support of core Democratic constituencies, despite what the early polls have shown. This would expand the number of political leaders and voters who see him as a candidate with the potential to unite and mobilize the Democratic coalition.

But, without a doubt, the most important story on Saturday will be Biden. This primary is truly a make-or-break moment for him. If he wins big, Biden brings his campaign back to life and improves his odds to make it until the convention. If he doesn't, it could be the first step in narrowing the number of Democrats who are vying to win this nomination.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 730969

Reported Deaths: 13434
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1000031743
Lake53771970
Allen40668678
St. Joseph35733552
Hamilton35629408
Elkhart28577442
Tippecanoe22402219
Vanderburgh22310397
Porter18776308
Johnson17970379
Hendricks17244315
Clark12985191
Madison12673339
Vigo12449247
LaPorte11928211
Monroe11893170
Delaware10696186
Howard9924216
Kosciusko9410117
Hancock8284141
Bartholomew8070156
Warrick7784155
Floyd7669178
Grant7060174
Wayne7051199
Boone6700101
Morgan6576139
Dubois6156117
Marshall6050111
Dearborn581378
Cass5808105
Henry5720103
Noble561384
Jackson501773
Shelby491996
Lawrence4546120
Harrison435872
Gibson435492
DeKalb428485
Clinton427453
Montgomery424189
Whitley396139
Huntington391980
Steuben387857
Miami381866
Knox371990
Jasper366047
Putnam360760
Wabash354179
Adams341354
Ripley339770
Jefferson330981
White314354
Daviess297399
Wells291581
Decatur285492
Fayette280762
Greene278985
Posey271533
LaGrange266770
Scott266354
Clay260247
Randolph240781
Washington240732
Spencer232131
Jennings230149
Starke216654
Fountain212346
Sullivan211942
Owen200256
Fulton195440
Jay195130
Carroll189320
Orange183654
Perry183037
Rush173425
Vermillion169143
Franklin168135
Tipton162845
Parke146316
Blackford134932
Pike134334
Pulaski116845
Newton107834
Brown102141
Crawford99814
Benton98614
Martin89115
Warren82115
Switzerland7918
Union71010
Ohio56811
Unassigned0416

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1085733

Reported Deaths: 19441
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1261201400
Cuyahoga1124072120
Hamilton801491206
Montgomery515591014
Summit47292946
Lucas42275788
Butler38396584
Stark32412907
Lorain25046481
Warren24313300
Mahoning21629588
Lake20725369
Clermont19803238
Delaware18537133
Licking16436212
Fairfield16230200
Trumbull16082468
Medina15309264
Greene15099244
Clark14017299
Wood13113189
Portage12890203
Allen11675232
Richland11382199
Miami10686217
Wayne8843211
Columbiana8816229
Muskingum8815133
Pickaway8582121
Marion8539135
Tuscarawas8487244
Erie7917154
Hancock6929127
Ross6858155
Ashtabula6830170
Geauga6697148
Scioto6417101
Belmont5920167
Union571048
Lawrence5560102
Jefferson5544151
Huron5439119
Darke5364123
Sandusky5359121
Seneca5290121
Athens520058
Washington5160109
Auglaize491984
Mercer480885
Shelby470093
Knox4495110
Madison436661
Putnam4287100
Fulton423969
Ashland423189
Defiance421097
Crawford3978107
Brown395057
Logan382376
Preble379898
Clinton372963
Ottawa367479
Highland355662
Williams340275
Champaign333458
Guernsey316253
Jackson312652
Perry295350
Morrow285639
Fayette282250
Hardin271464
Henry269366
Coshocton265357
Holmes2611101
Van Wert243763
Adams238552
Pike237734
Gallia235949
Wyandot231555
Hocking215462
Carroll191647
Paulding173340
Meigs144940
Noble133337
Monroe132342
Harrison108537
Morgan108523
Vinton83515
Unassigned02
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