Biden, Sanders claim momentum as Buttigieg drops out of race

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden says he can “unite this country, the whole country” after scoring a thundering victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, speaks at a primary night election rally in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The decisive victory could force moderate rivals out of the race and blunt the rise of progressive leader Bernie Sanders.

That win has forced leading moderate rival Pete Buttigieg out of the race.

Biden is warning of a “stark choice” between him and Bernie Sanders, while arguing that he is the candidate that can win up and down the ballot and in states beyond those voting on Tuesday.

Biden has for weeks looked to the black voters of South Carolina to hand a win to his flagging campaign.

On Saturday, they delivered.

Biden won 61% of the votes cast by non-white voters, dominating a crowded Democratic field among a group that made up more than half of the electorate.

He also performed strongly with older voter and self-described moderates and conservatives.

That’s according to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of more than 1,400 voters in South Carolina’s Democratic primary.

Biden vowed Sunday he would improve his campaign operation, his fundraising haul — and even his own performance — as the race pushes toward Super Tuesday.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Biden said: “I feel good. I can win and I can bring along Democratic victories.”

His win on the strength of African American support came at a perilous moment in his 2020 bid, as he needed an emphatic rebound after underwhelming performances in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Key rivals are showing few signs of exiting.

Sanders said his fundraising haul points to the vibrancy of his campaign.

His campaign announced Sunday that he raised an eye-popping $46.5 million in February.

The impressive show of financial strength was announced a day after the Vermont senator finished a distant second behind Joe Biden in South Carolina’s primary.

Sanders’ team also said it was making television ad buys in nine states voting on March 10 or 17.

It said it is “currently on the air in 12 out of the 14 states” voting on Super Tuesday in two days.

His chief rival for the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, announced raising $29 million for the same month.

Warren’s campaign talked openly of a convention fight this summer.

Her campaign also announced ad buys for Super Tuesday and beyond, and said it expects the Democratic field to winnow substantially in the coming week.

One, billionaire Mike Bloomberg, will be on the ballot for the first time Tuesday.

As for Pete Buttigieg, the window is closing for his longshot presidential campaign.

His fourth-place finish in South Carolina exposed a core vulnerability, namely the inability to attract the support of black voters who are vital to any winning Democratic coalition.

Now he heads into Super Tuesday without momentum and scrambling for money against other moderate candidates who have both.

Even some Democrats who are among his admirers are saying that it may be time to consider whether it’s wise to go much farther.

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