(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden is opening a daunting lead over the rest of the field in the March 3 Texas primary, but his advantage has slipped in South Carolina, where the primary later this month is crucial for his campaign, according to two polls released Sunday.
The former vice president leads Senator Bernie Sanders, his closest competitor, in Texas by 17 points in a poll by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler.
The good news for Biden in one of the biggest “Super Tuesday” states was tempered by results of a Charleston Post and Courier poll in South Carolina. His lead there ahead of the Feb. 29 primary has slipped to a mere 5 points over Sanders, after having been as large as 31 points last May in the newspaper’s poll.
South Carolina is supposed to be Biden’s firewall, giving him a reliable tranche of delegates after harder-fought contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Taken together, the two poll results suggest that Biden could face a more complicated path to the nomination. Results of later primaries are likely to be influenced by the results of earlier ones, so South Carolina is seen as a key momentum-builder going into delegate-rich states like Texas and California.
Biden’s strength in the Palmetto State is based largely on his support from African-American Democrats, who view him fondly for his role as President Barack Obama’s running mate.
Now, African-American voters in South Carolina have begun to look at alternatives. Biden has 30% support among African-Americans, down from 50% last year. Billionaire Tom Steyer is at 24% among those voters; Sanders is at 16%.
The timing of the South Carolina primary is critical, coming three days before Texas and 15 other Super Tuesday primaries that will award more than a third of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
The Texas poll released Sunday shows Biden at 35%, followed by Senator Bernie Sanders at 18%. Senator Elizabeth Warren and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have 16% each.
Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. He is not competing in South Carolina.
In Texas it’s Hispanic and African-American voters helping to give Biden a boost: 50% of African-American Democrats in Texas support him, as do 33% of Hispanics.
Texas is the third largest delegate prize on the Democratic calendar. And although Democrats use proportional representation to award delegates, Biden’s large margin could give him the overwhelming majority of the state’s 228 delegates.
The margins of error are 4 percentage points in the South Carolina poll and 4.4 points in the Texas poll.
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