Biden scores a victory in South Carolina, AP projects

Former Vice President Joe Biden notched his first victory of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary on Saturday with a win in South Carolina, which his campaign hopes will halt the momentum of Sen. Bernie Sanders and reset the race heading into Super Tuesday.

The Associated Press declared Biden the winner shortly after polls closed in the state at 7 p.m. ET. Sanders, the AP projected, would finish in second place in South Carolina.

“We’ve just won, and we’ve won big because of you. And we are very much alive,” Biden told his elated supporters at a victory party in Columbia.

Biden made his case that he was the best for his party in the general election, up and down the ballot.

“If Democrats nominate me, I believe we can beat Donald Trump, keep Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives as Speaker and take back the Senate,” Biden said.

Taking aim at Sanders, Biden said: “If the Democrats want a nominee who is a Democrat, a lifelong Democrat, a proud Democrat, an Obama-Biden Democrat, join us!”

Biden drew robust support from African-Americans in South Carolina, who make up nearly 60 percent of the state’s Democratic electorate. Sanders has worked hard to build alliances with African-Americans after being trounced by Hillary Clinton in South Carolina in 2016. However, the best-known black politician in the state, Rep. James Clyburn, endorsed Biden.

On Saturday, Clyburn introduced Biden at his victory party.

“This campaign, this year, is about the goodness of America, and we have as our candidate a real good man,” Clyburn said.

After a strong second-place showing in Nevada’s caucuses, Biden promised during a Tuesday debate in Charleston that he would prevail in South Carolina.

“I will win South Carolina,” Biden said.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The state awards 54 pledged delegates on a proportional basis, and Biden will take the majority based on the final percentage of the vote he receives. Before Saturday’s vote, Sanders was leading the field with 45 delegates. Pete Buttigieg had earned 26, while Biden had 15.

Biden will need to continue to build on his momentum on Super Tuesday, especially in Southern states like Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. These have a more conservative electorate than places like California, Colorado and Massachusetts, which would seem to favor Sanders.

Another state where Biden could do well next Tuesday is Virginia, and shortly after Biden was declared the winner in South Carolina, the state’s former governor, Terry McAuliffe, endorsed him and called on Democratic candidates Tom Steyer, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg to drop out of the race. McAuliffe said Michael Bloomberg should also “take a look” at dropping out.

That sentiment was echoed by Biden’s press secretary, TJ Ducklo.

“If you are a candidate and you have not shown that you can get traction with the core of the Democratic Party, with African American voters, then you have to take a hard look at your path and what your goals are,” Ducklo said Saturday.

Speaking to supporters at a rally in Houston, Warren made clear that she would remain in the race.

“We want to gain as many delegates to the convention as we can from California to right here in Texas,” Warren said.

At a rally in Virginia Beach, Va., Sanders reflected on Biden’s South Carolina victory, saying, "We have won the popular vote in Iowa. We have won the New Hampshire primary. We have won the Nevada caucus. But you cannot win 'em all. A lot of states out there, and tonight we did not win in South Carolina."

_____

Read more from Yahoo News: