COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Former Vice President Joe Biden declared his presidential campaign back in a big way before a throng of supporters elated with his big win in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary.
U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement of Biden on Wednesday was said to have a big impact on voters’ decisions at the polling place, introduced Biden at his event in Columbia.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, South Carolina,” Biden said to his supporters. The 77-year-old former vice president was celebrating his first nominating contest victory in three bids for the White House. It comes after dismal finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire and a distant second-place finish in Nevada.
“For all of those of you who’ve been knocked down, counted out and left behind, this is your campaign,” he said.
Addressing Democrats across the country ahead of Super Tuesday, he said this is a moment "to choose the path forward" for the party.
“The decisions Democrats make all across America next few days will determine what this party stands for what we believe, and what will get done,” he said.
He said the party has the option of “winning big or losing big.”
“We need to build on the coalition, the legacy of the most successful president in our lifetime, Barack Obama," Biden said. “And the way we do this is by bringing America together. Every race, ethnicity, gender, economic station, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, people of every stripe.”
He called the election “a battle for the soul” of America.
“We’re in an incredibly perilous moment, as all of you know,” he said. “Winning means uniting America, not sowing more division and anger. It means not only fighting, but healing the country. We have to beat Donald Trump in the Republican Party but here’s the deal: we can’t become like them. We can’t become like them. We can’t have a never-ending war. Above all, it’s time for American get back up. The country is so real. So ready. Once again, fight for the proposition that ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.’ We say it all the time, but we’ve never fully lived up to it. But we’ve never before to this president walked away from it. And it’s the reason why Jim (Clyburn) and I and all of us are in this."
CBS News, The Associated Press and numerous other outlets called the race for Biden within minutes of polls closing. The calls for Biden came before any official numbers were released with the projections based on exit polls.
As of 9:10 p.m., Biden had pulled in 50% of the votes, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders a distant second at 20%. Businessman and billionaire Tom Steyer came in at third place with 11% followed by Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in fourth place at 8%. Elizabeth Warren was in fifth place with 7%.
Biden’s team was planning for approximately 1,000 people at the USC volleyball arena for what they hoped would be a celebration of his victory.
Some supporters at the event say they voted for the former vice president because they consider him the most moderate candidate.
Biden was considered a front runner in the South Carolina primary race. In two polls that came out in the last week, he was up by double digits over Steyer and Sanders.
Earlier this week, Biden talked about his plans to win over young progressives who are putting their support behind Sanders.
“We have to give practical answers to how we’re going to get things done, so there’s a split about what’s to be done,” Biden said. “Promises are important, but being able to get them done is equally or even more important. I’m just going to compete as hard as I can.”
Earlier this week, Congressman Jim Clyburn endorsed Biden, an endorsement a CBS News exit poll states was “an important factor” in almost half of the state’s Democratic primary voters’ decision at the polls on Saturday.
Biden’s presidential campaign announced Saturday that Clyburn would campaign Sunday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, along with Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin.
But the top black member of Congress and kingmaker of South Carolina’s Democratic political circles made it clear he felt Biden’s campaign needed a retooling, saying earlier Saturday that he saw a need for more aggressive fundraising in later stages of the campaign.
Sanders has won second place in South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary, a respectable showing in a state dominated by Biden. The Vermont senator had won the past two contests in Nevada and New Hampshire. He also tied for first with Buttigieg in Iowa.
Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, is set to address supporters later Saturday night at a rally in Virginia, where scattered boos were heard as Biden was announced as the winner in South Carolina.
Biden's win could work to blunt Sanders’ momentum heading into Super Tuesday, when 14 states and American Samoa weigh in on the race.
Sanders has tightened up the gap between himself and Biden over the past few weeks campaigning among young and diverse voter bases in the state.
At a rally Friday night in North Charleston, President Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to cast a vote for Sanders in Saturday’s primary after conducting an impromptu survey to determine whether the crowd felt Sanders or Biden would be easier candidate for Trump to defeat in November.
But a U.S. Congressman from California campaigning for Sanders in South Carolina said Sanders and his supporters could surprise doubters.
“I think a lot of Republicans are underestimating him," Rep. Ro Khanna said. "You know, a lot of people thought Ronald Reagan was unelectable and hoped that Ronald Reagan would win the conservative nomination and then Ronald Reagan won overwhelmingly. I think similarly people underestimate Sanders and the movement he’s building.”
Days ago, Sanders said every candidate needs to rally around whoever wins the Democratic nomination if they want to face Trump in November.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren left South Carolina Saturday morning after an event in Columbia headed for Arkansas.
She, along with some other Democratic presidential hopefuls, has shifted her attention to one of the 14 states nationwide holding a primary this Tuesday, which is dubbed “Super Tuesday.”
The latest CBS News Battleground Tracker had her sitting at a distant fourth place in South Carolina with just 12 percent of the vote.
But she told voters in Arkansas she is the woman for the job of taking on the president in November.
“I’m Elizabeth Warren and I’m the woman who’s going to beat Donald Trump,” she said to a cheering crowd. "And I’m going to help us with the ticket. “We’re going to take back the Senate and put Mitch McConnell out of a job.”
Billionaire activist Tom Steyer told supporters in Columbia Saturday night after a disappointing finish in the South Carolina primary that he was dropping out of the race.
“Honestly, I can’t see a path where I can win the presidency,” he said.
Steyer said he got into the race because he didn’t think racial injustice was being addressed in the country. He said he will continue to work to address that issue. He also thanked his supporters and pledged that he would never forget South Carolina, where he focused most of his presidential efforts.
“The people who have endorsed me have stood up in a very red state where I have seen things that have broken my heart,” Steyer said.
He also vowed that he was not leaving.
“We are already working to figuring out ways to make sure that we stay in South Carolina,” he said.
Steyer invested major campaign resources in South Carolina and his supporters have gathered in the state’s capital city for their watch party.
In South Carolina, Steyer has been averaging third place for weeks after failing to generate much momentum in Iowa or New Hampshire. He came in with less than 5 percent of the vote in Nevada.
As the ballot boxes were being brought in here to the Charleston County election warehouse, it was clear Buttigieg would not come out on top.
However, the former South Bend mayor says he’s not giving up the fight for the Democratic nomination.
Buttigieg spent a lot of time campaigning in the state and right here in the Lowcountry where he had his work cut out for him in getting the African-American vote.
In an interview Saturday morning, Buttigieg said he’s reaching out to black voters who “have felt taken for granted again and again and again by politics as usual. And he said he’s looking forward to Super Tuesday.
“I think we’re going to head into Super Tuesday with a lot of strength," he said. "Voters in the end are going to make the decision and my job is to get eye to eye and ask these voters for their support.”
He also said he will support the party’s nominee, even if it turns out to be Sanders. But he acknowledged concern that if Sanders were to get the nomination, the Democrats might wind up losing some House and Senate seats.
According to his website, Buttigieg appeared at a Saturday night town hall event in Raleigh, North Carolina.