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Former Vice President Joe Biden makes comeback with blowout win in South Carolina

Biden revives his fortunes heading into Super Tuesday with nearly 30-point triumph in the Palmetto State

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden revived his flagging presidential campaign Saturday with a clear, convincing win in South Carolina’s first-in-the-South presidential primary, giving him crucial momentum heading into next week’s Super Tuesday contests.

Biden won 48 percent of the vote and carried all 46 counties, defeating Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who came in a distant second at 20 percent.

“Just days ago, the press and the pundits had declared this candidacy dead,” Biden told jubilant supporters in Columbia. “Now, thanks to you, the heart of the Democratic Party, we’ve just won, and we won big.”

Joe Biden declares victory in South Carolina (From SkyNews via YouTube)

Biden used his victory speech to draw a contrast with Sanders, urging Democrats in the Super Tuesday states to “nominate someone who will build on Obamacare, not scrap it; take on the NRA and gun manufacturers, not protect them; [and] stand up to give the poor a fighting chance and have the middle class restored, not raise their taxes.”

The result in South Carolina was welcome news for Biden, who finished fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire, and a distant second to Sanders in Nevada. It also marked the first ever primary win for Biden in his third try for the White House.

The key to his win Saturday was a strong performance among African American voters, who made up 56 percent of the Palmetto State electorate. Exit polls showed that Biden took 60 percent of the black vote, running more than 40 points ahead of his nearest rival, Sanders.

Coming in third place in the statewide results was California billionaire Tom Steyer at 11 percent; followed by former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttegieg, 8 percent;  U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, 7 percent; U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota at 3 percent; and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii at 1 percent.

After the results came in, Steyer dropped out of the race.

Biden and Sanders were the only two candidates on the ballot Saturday who cleared the 15 percent threshold needed statewide and in congressional districts to claim delegates to this summer’s Democratic National Convention. Biden took 39 delegates, to 14 for Sanders.

However, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has spent nearly $500 million of his own fortune on his campaign, did not compete in South Carolina. He will make his debut in contests on Tuesday in 14 states, including seven in the South.

Only Democrats had a primary in South Carolina; Republicans canceled their primary in deference to President Donald Trump.

For Sanders, South Carolina marked his first defeat of the campaign, after tying for first in Iowa and winning outright in New Hampshire and Nevada. He also got a smaller percentage of the vote in than he did in 2016, when he won 26 percent in a two-way race against Hillary Clinton, and once again lost every county in the state.

Speaking to supporters in Virginia Beach, Sanders offered his congratulations to Biden before pivoting to make the case that he and not Biden offers the kind of revolutionary change that can lead to a Democratic victory in November.

“In order to defeat Trump, we are going to need the largest voter turnout in the history of this country,” Sanders said. “Old-fashioned politics — the same old, same old type of politics that doesn’t excite anybody, that doesn’t energize anybody — that is not going to be the campaign that beats Trump.”

Biden, Sanders and the rest of the field now turn their attention to Super Tuesday, with more than 1,300 delegates at stake nationwide, including 621 across the South.

The list of Southern states holding primaries Tuesday includes Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Outside the region, primaries will be held in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maine, Utah and Vermont.

The state of the races in Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma is a big unknown, given a paucity of public polling in any of those states. The polling that has been done in Texas, North Carolina and Virginia shows Biden, Sanders and Bloomberg bunched at the top, with the other candidates trailing behind.

The question for Biden is whether his win in South Carolina will give him the momentum to push through in the Super Tuesday states, where he is being outspent by Bloomberg and will face Sanders’s formidable ground operation.

One of the biggest factors in who can carry these Southern states will be performance among African American voters, who make up a majority of the Democratic electorate in Alabama and more than a quarter in Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.

While Biden ran away with the black vote in South Carolina, he will face new competition Tuesday from Bloomberg, who has been organizing across the region and getting endorsements from African American elected officials.

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South Carolina Democrats deciding first-in-the-South presidential primary

Joe Biden faces crucial test against Bernie Sanders in the Palmetto State

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLESTON (CFP) — Democrats are going to the polls across South Carolina Saturday to pick their favorite for the party’s presidential nomination, which former Vice President Joe Biden hoping to revive his flagging fortunes heading into Super Tuesday and Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders hoping to add to his list of victories.

Not on the ballot in Saturday’s first-in-the-South primary is former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has spent nearly $500 million of his own fortune on his campaign and will make his debut in contests on Tuesday in 14 states, including seven in the South.

Polls in the Palmetto State close at 7 p.m. ET. Only Democrats are voting; South Carolina Republicans opted to cancel their primary in support of President Donald Trump.

Sanders and Biden compete in South Carolina

After finishing fourth in Iowa and New Hampshire and a distant second to Sanders in Iowa, Biden’s campaign hopes his strong support among African American voters — who will make up about 60 percent of the electorate in South Carolina — will propel him to his first victory of the presidential race.

Four years ago, Sanders was crushed nearly 3-to-1 in South Carolina by Hillary Clinton, who carried all 46 counties. But this time around, his chances will be helped by a more fractured field and a strong statewide organization built since his defeat last time around.

Most public polling in the last week of the race showed no statistically significant difference between Biden and Sanders, although some polls showed the former vice president had built a lead.

Five other candidates are on the ballot Saturday: California businessman Tom Steyer, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttegieg, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Polls show Steyer, who wasn’t a factor in the first three contests, in third place behind Biden and Sanders in South Carolina, with the rest of the candidates trailing.

A pot of 54 delegates are at stake Saturday, 12 allocated proportionally based on the statewide results and 35 allocated proportionally based on the results in the state’s seven congressional districts. However, only candidates who win at least 15 percent of the vote statewide or in a congressional district qualify for any delegates.

Pre-election polling indicates that Biden and Sanders could end up splitting all 54 delegates between them, although that will depend on district-level results, where public polling has not been done.

After Saturday, the presidential race in the South turns to seven Super Tuesday states where delegates will be selected — Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.

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Florida Primary: DeSantis wins GOP governor’s nod; Gillum is surprise winner among Democrats

Three Democratic U.S. House incumbents survive; Donna Shalala wins race for Miami seat

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TALLAHASSEE (CFP) — November’s election for Florida governor will pit a Donald Trump acolyte against a Bernie Sanders-backed Democrat trying to become the first African-American ever elected to lead the Sunshine State.

In the Republican primary, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis easily defeated State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who started the campaign as the front-runner but saw his chances fade after DeSantis got Trump’s endorsement.

But the biggest surprise of the August 28 vote came on the Democratic side, where Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum came from behind to defeat two self-funding millionaires and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who comes from a prominent Florida political family.

Meanwhile, three Democratic incumbent U.S. House members who faced primary challenges survived, including 9th District U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, who easily defeated former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a controversial liberal firebrand trying to make a political comeback.

Also, Donna Shalala, President Bill Clinton’s health secretary, won her primary in a GOP-held district likely to flip in November.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida

In the Republican race for governor, DeSantis, 39, from Palm Coast, beat Putnam by 20 points, carrying all of the state’s large cities.

“I believe there is no limit to what we can accomplish here as long as we have the courage to lead,” he told supporters at a victory party in Orlando. “And I pledge to you as governor to work my but off to accomplish great things for this state.”

DeSantis also offered his thanks to Trump “for viewing me as someone who can be a great leader for Florida.”

The result was a significant stumble for Putnam, 44, who spent 10 years in Congress and two terms as agriculture commission with his eye on the governor’s mansion.

Putnam

Speaking to supporters in Lakeland, Putnam said he would do “any and everything we can” to help DeSantis win in November.

“He’s a veteran, he’s a solid conservative, and he will need our help,” Putnam said.

On the Democratic side, Gillum, who was vastly outspent and did not lead in a single public pre-election poll, took 34 percent to 31 percent for Graham. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine came in at 20 percent and Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene at 10 percent.

Florida does not have primary runoffs, so Gillum won the nomination without a runoff.

Combined, Levine and Greene put more than $20 million of their own money into the race, to no avail.

Gillum was outspent by all of his major competitors, although he did get an infusion of cash near the end of the campaign from liberal megadonorrs George Soros and Tom Steyer. He was also endorsed by Sanders, the self-styled democratic socialist who ran an insurgent presidential campaign in 2016.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum

“There were just a few people who said that this moment would not be possible,” Gillum told cheering supporters in Tallahassee. “And then there were a few more who believed this day was possible.”

“This thing is not about me. It never has been. It never will be,” he said. “This race is about every single one of you.”

Gillum’s victory upsets the political equation on both sides. Democrats had been hoping for a DeSantis win, seeing him as a weaker candidate against Graham, who had a moderate record during her one term in Congress. Now, both campaigns will have to adapt to a race pitting the most conservative candidate in the race against the most liberal.

Gillum is also the first African American candidate in either party to win a gubernatorial nomination in Florida and would become the state’s first black governor if he beats DeSantis in November.

One cloud on the horizon for Gillum is an ongoing FBI investigation into corruption in Tallahassee city government. He has insisted that he is not implicated in the probe, although photographs have surfaced of the mayor traveling with two FBI agents who were working undercover.

Gillum, like DeSantis, won all of the state’s major cities. The key to his victory was a collapse in Graham’s vote in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, where she didn’t break 20 percent.

Graham

Speaking to her supporters in Orlando, Graham pledged her support to Gillum, relating a phone call she had with the primary winner.

“I said, ‘Now Andrew, go out and win this damn thing because this is too important to the state of Florida,” said Graham, the daughter of former governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham.

In the U.S. Senate race, both Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Republican Governor Rick Scott easily won their party’s nominations for the fall election, setting up what is likely to be the nation’s most expensive Senate race this year.

In U.S. House races, three Democratic incumbents also easily turned back primary challengers.

In the 5th District, a majority-minority district that stretches across North Florida from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee took 60 percent of the vote to defeat former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

In the 9th District in metro Orlando, Soto easily dispatched Grayson, 66 percent to 44 percent. Grayson was trying to make a comeback after giving up the seat in 2016 to make an ill-fated bid for the U.S. Senate.

In another Orlando-area district, the 7th, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy crushed Chardo Richardson, an attorney who was running as a “progressive” alternative to Murphy, taking 86 percent of the vote.

Tuesday’s primaries also set up fall matches for four battleground seats that Democrats are trying to take away in their quest to win control of the House.

In the 27th District in Miami-Dade County, Shalala, a Clinton cabinet secretary and former president of the University of Miami, took the first step in her quest to launch a political career at age 77, winning with 32 percent of the vote in a field of five candidates.

She will face Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, a former Spanish-language TV news anchor, who won the GOP race with 41 percent of the vote.

The district, which includes Miami Beach and parts of Miami, is open due to the retirement of veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, who has held it for 30 years. Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the district by nearly 20 points in 2016, making this one of the Democrats best pickup opportunities nationally.

However, the population of the district is more than 70 percent Latino and includes Miami’s politically potent Cuban community. Salazar is a Cuban-American born in Miami; Shalala, of Lebanese descent, was born in Ohio and moved to Miami in 2001.

In the 16th District centered on the southern side of Tampa Bay, Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota is seeking a seventh term in a district Trump carried by 11 points. He will face Democrat David Shapiro, a Sarasota lawyer who easily won his party’s nomination.

Shapiro has raised more than $1.3 million for the race to try to make it competitive, according to Federal Elections Commission campaign finance reports. However, Buchanan has raised $2.2 million.

In the 18th District along the Treasure Coast and northern Palm Beach County, the Democratic nominee will be Laura Baer, an attorney from Palm Beach Gardens who served as a senior adviser to secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. She will now take on Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast from Palm City in a swing district that switched parties in 2012 and 2016.

In the 26th District which takes in parts of Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys, Democrats chose Debbie Murcasel-Powell, a consultant for non-profit groups, to face Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Curbelo been a rare critic of Trump within the House Republican Caucus as he tries to hang on in a district Hillary Clinton won by 16 points.

Republicans also picked nominees for three open GOP-held seats that they will be favored to retain in November.

In the 6th District in metro Jacksonville, which DeSantis gave up to run for governor, Republicans chose Mike Waltz, an aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney. In November, he will face Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a former Bill Clinton aide who served as deputy U.N. ambassador.

In Southwest Florida’s 15th District, where Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross retired, State Rep. Ross Spano won the Republican nomination and will now face Democrat Kristen Carlson, former general counsel for the Florida Department of Citrus.

And the 17th District, a rural district south of Orlando, Republicans chose State Senator Craig Steube, while Democrats chose April Freeman, a TV producer and political consultant from Cape Coral.

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