Joe Biden takes South Carolina, Buttigieg comes in fourth

Joe Biden in South Carolina
The 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders gain a lot of delegates in South Carolina primary

The Democratic presidential field was jostled a bit Saturday, as South Carolina primary voting handed former Vice President Joe Biden his first primary victory. The primary gave Pete Buttigieg a decent showing in fourth place, especially given that he is openly gay and has been struggling to appeal to African American voters.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting just after midnight, Biden had earned 48.4 percent of the vote, followed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders with 19.9 percent, businessman Tom Steyer with 11.3 percent, Buttigieg with 8.2 percent, and U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar with 7.1 percent and 3.1 percent respectively.

Only Biden and Sanders met the required 15 percent threshold to earn delegates in the South Carolina primary. Of South Carolina’s 54 delegates, 19 are divided based on how the entire state voted; 35 are divided up based on voting in each of the state’s Congressional districts.

Biden’s first place victory secures 34 delegates for the Democratic National Convention. Sanders picked up 11. That brings the total delegates—across Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina—to Sanders 55, Biden 45, Buttigieg 26, Warren 8, and Klobuchar 7.

Despite coming in third in South Carolina voting, businessman Steyer announced Saturday night he is suspending his campaign.

Exit polling by the Washington Post indicates that Buttigieg won less than three percent of the votes cast by African Americans in South Carolina. A number of polls in prior to voting suggested he might get as little as one percent of African American support.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was not on the ballot in South Carolina. But in nationally televised debate and town hall appearances just prior to the South Carolina, Bloomberg cited his work to gain passage of a marriage equality bill in the New York State legislature. He took credit for getting Republicans onboard. His push, in 2011, came a full year before then President Obama verbalized his support for marriage equality.

“Mike definitely helped a lot,” said Richard Socarides, a long-time Democratic activist. “He donated money, he filmed a commercial as I recall. Most importantly, he used his Republican contacts in the New York State Legislature to convince state senators to vote for the bill. [Governor] Andrew Cuomo, of course, lead the effort, but Mike played a key role.”

Outside the debate and town hall appearances, there was also controversy. The Sanders campaign confirmed this week that it fired an openly gay staffer in Michigan after he made crude comments on his personal Twitter account about Sanders’ Democratic rivals. The staffer, who served as Sanders’ regional field director in Michigan, derided Buttigieg as “what happens when the therapist botches the conversion.”

The firing took place as criticism of Sanders was heating up for not doing enough to shut down hate-filled and sometimes threatening social media posts by supporters depicting themselves as “Bernie’s Bros.” A spokesman for his campaign reiterated that “disgusting behavior and ugly personal attacks by our staff will not be tolerated.”

The Super showdown is Tuesday

On Tuesday, voters in 14 states and two U.S. territories will hold their Democratic primaries, including California, which controls 415 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, and Texas, which has 228. In total, 1,357 delegates will be decided, potentially giving one or two candidates a substantial leap toward the 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination on the first ballot. It no candidate gets that majority on the first ballot, so-called “super delegates” (governors, senators, and other Democratic elected officials) will vote on the second ballot and a candidate will need 2,476 delegates to win the nomination.

San Francisco’s LGBT newspaper, the Bay Area Reporter, published its endorsement. February 26. The paper voiced its support for Buttigieg, saying, “The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana is the first openly gay Democratic top tier contender in a presidential contest, but that’s not the only reason we support him. Having watched Buttigieg’s performances in the primary debates, town halls, and on the campaign trail, we’ve come to believe he is the one candidate who can unite the fractured party, reach out to disaffected independent voters, and make a credible case for defeating Trump in November.”

Equality California, the state’s largest LGBT political organization, also endorsed Buttigieg.

In Texas,neither the LGBT newspaper Dallas Voice nor Stonewall Democrats of Dallas made an endorsement to president.

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