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South Carolina primary live updates: NBC projects Biden wins

Bernie Sanders finished second in the primary, according to an NBC News projection.
Image: Voters will go to the polls in the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.
Voters will go to the polls in the South Carolina Democratic primary on Sat., Feb. 29, 2020.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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NBC News projects former Vice President Joe Biden has won the South Carolina primary with heavy support from black and moderate voters.

Saturday's first-in-the-South primary could be a pivotal moment for many of the candidates, especially Biden, who is counting on his projected landslide win here to reinvigorate his candidacy ahead of Super Tuesday.

Also on the ballot were Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was not in the running as he decided to skip the first four nominating contests.

Highlights from the South Carolina primary

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Live Blog

What exactly is Tom Steyer planning to do?

CHARLESTON, S.C. — As Democrats begin to lose patience with the size of their 2020 presidential primary field, one candidate could be poised to seize attention with an unexpected finish Saturday.

Tom Steyer, the California activist billionaire who has largely been a nonfactor in the primary campaign so far, is on track to finish in the top three in South Carolina's contest, according to recent polls, potentially depriving former Vice President Joe Biden of the strong finish he needs to reclaim momentum.

Many Democrats eyeing the general election are eager for underperforming candidates to get out of the way, but few have provoked more annoyance than Steyer, who has invested particularly heavily in South Carolina, with a focus on racial justice and climate issues.

"A lot of Democrats feel as though it's time for Steyer to get out," longtime Democratic operative Karen Finney said. "There's a real frustration that his money could be spent helping us win because it's pretty obvious to most people that there's just not a path for him. And Democrats are becoming increasingly anxious that it's time to start coalescing."

But despite being one of the Democratic Party's single biggest donors in recent elections, Steyer has a long history of going his own way. For instance, he spent millions pushing for President Donald Trump's impeachment over the vocal objections of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, Steyer said he doesn't much care what "the Democratic establishment" thinks about his strategy and called the idea that he's a spoiler for Biden "a crazy statement."

Read more here.

The scene in North Charleston

Voters check-in with poll workers at a polling station located at Mary Ford Elementary School during the primary election in North Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Joshua Lott / AFP - Getty Images

 

Buttigieg issues with black voters magnified in South Carolina

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Georgette Mayo, who is African American, doesn't like Pete Buttigieg.

"I don't trust him," said Mayo, an archivist at the College of Charleston, who has narrowed her choices in Saturday's Democratic primary to Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren.

"In regards to him as mayor in South Bend, and the friction that there was with the police chief — he just hasn't made up for that," she said. "To me, he's just not even a consideration."

Mayo is among the many black voters in South Carolina who — citing Buttigieg's mixed record on race when he was a mayor in Indiana — say they just can't fathom backing him.

Buttigieg's struggles to win over African American voters have long been in the spotlight.

He's defended policy decisions he made as mayor that were not well received by the city's black community, and he’s faced blowback in confronting race relations and policing there.

Buttigieg's challenge in tackling race issues, however, are especially pertinent in South Carolina, where black voters make up a majority of the Democratic electorate and where every winner of the state's Democratic primary since 1992 (except for John Edwards in 2004) has gone on to win the party's nomination.

Read more here.

On the South Carolina airwaves: Negative ads and appeals to black voters

WASHINGTON — With just one day to go until South Carolina's pivotal Democratic presidential primary, the Palmetto State's ad wars are heating up.

Philanthropist and billionaire Tom Steyer has blanketed the state to the tune of $20 million in television and radio ads in South Carolina this cycle, according to Advertising Analytics. That's more than the rest of the Democratic field combined. 

Far behind him, but ahead of the rest of the pack, is former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has spent $2.4 million. (While former Mayor Michael Bloomberg isn't on the ballot in South Carolina, he's running $2 million in ads in adjacent states that bleed onto the airwaves in South Carolina.)

Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign has spent $700,000; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has spent $690,000; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has spent $580,000; Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has spent $500,000; and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has spent $470,000. 

And Super PACs supporting Klobuchar, Warren and Biden have spent $980,000, $590,000 and $110,000 respectively. 

Read more here.

Everything you need to know about South Carolina's primary

The 2020 primary race is heading to South Carolina for the nation's First in the South nominating contest.

The South Carolina primary tests candidates' strength with black voters, who made up nearly two-thirds of the Democratic primary electorate in 2016.

The state also boasts a nearly-perfect track record; since Democrats in the state first used a primary in 1992, every winner except for one has gone on to win the Democratic nomination. The exception: Neighboring-state favorite John Edwards, who won South Carolina but ultimately lost the nod to John Kerry.

Here’s everything you need to know about the South Carolina primary.

5 things to watch in the South Carolina primary: A moment of truth for Joe Biden

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Democratic primary here on Saturday will determine whether Joe Biden’s campaign is alive and kicking, or whether another candidate can lay claim to being the strongest challenger to national front-runner Bernie Sanders.

South Carolina is the first majority-black primary electorate on the calendar — about 60 percent in 2016 — and the winner in four out of the last five contests since 1992 has gone on to capture the party’s nomination (the exception, John Edwards of neighboring North Carolina in 2004, ended up as the vice presidential pick.)

The primary comes three days before the immensely important "Super Tuesday" contests, and Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Amy Klobuchar are all jockeying for position.

Here are five things to watch for when polls close at 7 p.m. EST.