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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

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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South Carolina exit polls: More black, moderate voters turn out

Voters in South Carolina’s primary were more diverse and more moderate than those in the first three early-state contests for the Democratic presidential nomination, early results from the NBC News Exit Poll shows.

More than half of those voting in Saturday's primary — 55 percent — identified as African American, a dramatically higher share than in the Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada Democratic presidential contests. Just half of voters said they consider themselves to be liberal, compared to all the previous contests where liberals made up at least six-in-ten voters. And just four-in-ten South Carolina voters said they hold a college degree; by contrast, college graduates were in the majority of the electorates in the first three contests.

Read more on the exit poll results.

Biden wins South Carolina primary

Joe Biden will notch a victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday night, buoyed by strong support from African American voters, NBC News projects.

The double-digit win for Biden, along with the likelihood of collecting many or most of the 54 delegates at stake, gives his campaign a much-needed shot in the arm ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries next week.

NBC News Exit Poll: Black voters want a return to Obama era, whites want to go more liberal

Two out of three black voters in today’s South Carolina Democratic presidential primary want the next president to return to Barack Obama’s policies, early results from the NBC News Exit Poll show. The other black voters are split nearly evenly between wanting a more liberal or a more conservative path as compared to Obama’s policies.

For many white Democrats, however, a return to the Obama era isn’t enough: They want a president who will pursue more liberal policies. A plurality of white Democrats in South Carolina, 43 percent, favor a change to more liberal policies. Meanwhile, 34 percent want a return to Obama’s policies. Another 20 percent of white Democrats think the next president should change to more conservative policies.

Election Confessions, South Carolina edition

South Carolina is the last of the early state presidential contests to precede Super Tuesday and also the most diverse among them. The question everyone’s asking heading into Saturday’s election: Which way will it go?

NBC News has asked its readers since last summer to anonymously ‘confess’ what they really think about the presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican.

On Election Confessions, people from across the United States have shared more than 60,000 short ideas about the candidates and the country. Many of those provided their locations (as determined by their internet connection).

Here are some of the more notable confessions from the Palmetto State.

NBC News Exit Poll: More white voters 'angry' with Trump than black voters in South Carolina

"Angry" is the word nearly two out of three white Democrats are using to describe their feelings about the Trump administration as they vote in South Carolina’s presidential primary today, early results from the NBC News Exit Poll show.

Another quarter of white Democrats say they’re dissatisfied with Trump. By contrast, black Democrats’ reactions to the Trump administration are less heated: Just 37 percent say they’re angry, and 46 percent say they’re dissatisfied.

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.