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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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NBC News Exit Poll: Half of South Carolina primary voters want economic overhaul

Early results from the NBC News Exit Poll show that about half of voters in today’s South Carolina Democratic presidential primary expressed widespread dissatisfaction with the nation’s economic system.

South Carolina’s unemployment rate is currently just 2.3 percent, the lowest it’s been in decades. Nevertheless, a majority of the state’s Democratic voters — 51 percent — say the U.S. economic system “needs a complete overhaul,” while another 35 percent say it warrants “minor changes.” Just one in 10 voters think the economy works well enough “as is.”

Clyburn: 'I'm not going to sit idly by and watch people mishandle' Biden's campaign

CHARLESTON, S.C. — South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, the House minority whip, criticized Joe Biden's campaign in a CNN interview on Saturday, arguing that the former vice president must "re-tool" his candidacy to continue to be competitive. 

Clyburn, who holds considerable sway in South Carolina, endorsed Biden earlier this week. His support could give the campaign a boost among Black voters, a key demographic to win, after disappointing finishes in previous contests. 

"I did not feel free to speak about it or to even deal with inside because I had not committed to his candidacy. I have now, and I'm all in and I'm not going to sit idly by and watch people mishandle this campaign," Clyburn said. "We're going to get it right."

As voters head to the polls on Saturday, Clyburn said he hopes Biden can have a decisive enough victory that it resets his campaign and makes him competitive on Super Tuesday.

“If South Carolinians were to reset his campaign here this evening, I really believe it would give him the legs he needs to go the distance,” Clyburn said. "If we are successful tonight in this campaign, if he has a re-launch, I think we will have to sit down and get serious about how we re-tool this campaign, how we re-tool the fundraising, how we do the [Get Out The Vote] and at that point in time, many of us around the country will be able to join with him and help him get it right."

NBC News Exit Poll: A quarter of Sanders Democrats can’t guarantee they’ll support party nominee

One in four South Carolina supporters of Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders won’t pledge to vote for the party’s nominee in the 2020 general election, early results from the NBC News Exit Poll of primary voters show.

That’s lower than the South Carolina primary electorate as whole: Roughly one in six of the state’s Democratic voters can’t say they will vote for the party’s ticket regardless of who ultimately wins the nomination.

NBC News Exit Poll: 'Medicare for All' goes four for four in primary contests so far

A proposal to replace all private insurance with a single government plan for all Americans is finding majority support among voters in all four early state Democratic presidential contests, results from the NBC News Exit Poll show. 

An idea whose appeal was once limited to the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party, “Medicare for All” is favored by a majority of voters in today’s presidential primary in South Carolina, which features the most moderate Democratic electorate so far in 2020. Support for the plan in the Southern state isn’t quite as high as among Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada, where an average of six in 10 voters expressed support for it.

Democrats in Trump districts cast a nervous eye at a surging Sanders

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Few people sound more excited about the prospect of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., winning the Democratic nomination than South Carolina Republicans.

"It's the best-case scenario," said Republican state Rep. Nancy Mace, who is running for her party's nomination to challenge freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham. "Really, it's the best-case scenario for any Republican on the ballot."

South Carolina's 1st Congressional District, which covers over 100 miles of coast from north of Charleston down to Hilton Head Island, has long been a Republican stronghold. The district voted for Donald Trump by more than 13 points in 2016 and for Mitt Romney by more than 18 points in 2012.

Cunningham, 37, a former ocean engineer and Charleston-based lawyer, won the district by a slim 1.4 percentage points in 2018, becoming the first Democrat to represent the area since the 1970s.

Sanders' rise has many Democrats here worried that Cunningham's seat — the object of one of the most competitive House races in the country — would be even more vulnerable if a democratic socialist were at the top of the party's ticket in November. In conversations with down-ballot Democratic candidates and strategists here, many said they were crossing their fingers in hope that Sanders' momentum would come to a halt in South Carolina's primary this weekend.

Read more here.

NBC News Exit Poll: Democrats prioritize beating Trump over ideological purity

Slightly more than half of South Carolina Democrats said they prioritize beating Trump over a candidate who agrees with them on issues, early results from the NBC News Exit Poll of primary voters show.

South Carolina Democrats aren’t quite as focused on victory in November as their counterparts in the other 2020 contests held so far: In Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, more than six in 10 voters said they’re rather see a nominee who can beat Trump.

NBC News Exit Poll: South Carolina first early state contest with strong presence of African American voters

Today’s South Carolina Democratic primary features an electorate that differs sharply in many ways from the previous three early voting states in the 2020 race, early results from the NBC Exit Poll show.

More than half of those voting in South Carolina identify as African American, a share dramatically higher than in the Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada 2020 Democratic contests. Just half of voters consider themselves to be liberal; in all previous states liberals made up at least six in 10 voters. And just four in 10 South Carolina voters today hold a college degree. By contrast, college graduates were the majority of electorates in the first three contests.

NAACP president: To us, SC is beginning of primary season

Warren defends super PAC support in front of supporters

Warren on Saturday defended taking donations from a super PAC that formed ahead of the Nevada caucuses to give her campaign a boost.

The Massachusetts senator had previously criticized the use of political action committees and promised not to use them, but as her opponents continue to benefit from their own PACs, she explained that she had changed her mind.

"There's a super PAC now that's come in for me, and I get it, there are people who want to try to get women elected," Warren said at the rally in Little Rock, Arkansas, the first time she addressed the issue at such a venue. "They feel really frustrated that they haven't had an opportunity to do that. But my view on this is, we could keep super PACs out of this, but it takes everybody following the same set of rules. So as soon as everybody's ready, I'll lead the charge and we'll keep the super PACs out because I think that's the right way to do it."

The organization, Persist PAC, announced previously that it's spending $9 million in television and digital ads in multiple Super Tuesday states on Warren's behalf. 

South Carolina voters with no insurance, deep medical debt swayed by health care

ORANGEBURG, S.C. — After years of hard work, Ashley Myers finally realized her dream of owning a women’s fashion store and a beauty shop directly across the street from each other in this small, predominantly black city. But as the costs of her health care plan rose a year ago, she could only keep one storefront open.

Today, as the owner and the sole employee of the combined beauty shop and fashion store, she pays $800 a month for her insurance premiums, but she said it really only helps in dire circumstances. Otherwise, she pays so much out of pocket that she feels only as well off as her uninsured brother — he only sees a doctor in the emergency room, where he racks up huge medical bills.

“I try to be smart about when I go to the doctor and make sure I have the money or else they take it away from my business,” Myers, 35, said.

For many in this city of 13,000, health care and insurance are foremost ahead of Saturday’s Democratic primary, when South Carolina voters will likely weigh the medical plans proposed by the different presidential candidates. The most radical idea of "Medicare for All" is beginning to appeal to some like Myers, who are worried about their own pocketbooks or concerned for family and friends who don't have insurance.

Read more here.