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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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Live Blog

NBC News Exit Poll: Generational divide separates Biden, Sanders supporters

Joe Biden won today’s primary by amassing an overwhelming margin among the state’s African American voters. But black Democrats’ support for Biden is far from uniform: According to the NBC News Exit Poll, the former vice president faces a robust challenge from Sanders for the votes of the youngest generation of African Americans.

Biden’s support among African American voters was strongest among those aged 65 and over: He crushed Sanders with this group, 81 percent to 8 percent. But at each step down the generational ladder, Biden’s performance with blacks worsened and Sanders improved. Among black Democrats under age 30, Sanders came within 4 points of tying Biden.

Biden performed better with blacks than whites among all ages, but a parallel generational pattern emerged among whites: he beat Sanders among white Democrats 45 and over, but lost by substantial margins among younger whites — getting just 10 percent of the vote among whites aged 17 to 29.

Clyburn lauds Biden as 'real good man' before his S.C. victory speech

Rep. Jim Clyburn whose endorsement of Biden ahead of the South Carolina Democratic primary helped catapult him to a projected landslide win introduced the former veep ahead of his victory speech Saturday night, lauding him as a "real good man."

"This campaign, this year, is about the goodness of America," Clyburn said at Biden's South Carolina campaign headquarters in Columbia.

"And our candidate is a real good man," he said. 

Biden earned a major boost from Clyburn, the most powerful Democrat in South Carolina and the highest-ranking black member of Congress, who endorsed him Wednesday and is already slated to campaign for him in neighboring North Carolina and other upcoming states.

Around half of voters said Clyburn’s endorsement was an important factor in their decision, according to NBC News exit polls.

'You cannot win ‘em all': Sanders downplays loss in South Carolina

Sanders downplayed his loss in the South Carolina primary Saturday evening, telling supporters at a campaign event in Virginia Beach that "you cannot win ‘em all."

"I am very proud that in this campaign. So far we have won the popular vote in Iowa. We have won the New Hampshire primary. We have won the Nevada caucus," Sanders said. "But you cannot win ‘em all."

"A lot of states out there and tonight we did not win in South Carolina. And that will not be the only defeat, there are a lot of states," Sanders said, congratulating Biden on his win. 

With 19 percent in, Biden had 51.3 percent and Sanders had 17.8 percent. 

Sanders told his supporters that he looked forward to Super Tuesday next week where he hoped to have a strong showing. Virginia, where Sanders campaigned as the South Carolina results rolled in, votes on Super Tuesday. 

Watch Sanders' full South Carolina primary speech.

Medicare for All is supported by most Democrats in all four early states

Most Democrats in the first four presidential primary states support Medicare for All, according to NBC News exit or entrance polls. Support was 57 percent to 38 percent in Iowa, 58 percent to 37 percent in New Hampshire, 62 percent to 35 percent in Nevada, and 50 percent to 44 percent in South Carolina.

The broad support for Bernie Sanders' signature issue within the party spans four primary electorates with widely varying demographic makeups.

The exact wording of the NBC News questionnaire was: "How do you feel about replacing all private health insurance with a single government plan for everyone?"

Bernie Sanders will finish second in the primary and win at least 3 delegates, NBC News projects

NBC News projects that Bernie Sanders will finish second in the South Carolina primary and will win at least three delegates.

The projection comes with less than 20 percent of the results in and amid strong support among black and moderate voters for Joe Biden, NBC News' projected winner. 

NBC News Exit Poll: Bloomberg finds little love from South Carolina Democrats

As in the previous early state contests for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Mike Bloomberg was not on the ballot in today’s South Carolina primary. Bloomberg’s half-billion-dollar nationwide advertising blitz was also largely absent from the state. 

But South Carolina Democrats aren’t shy about expressing sharply sour opinions about the former New York City mayor, results from the NBC News Exit Poll show.

Just a quarter of South Carolina Democratic primary voters say they have a favorable opinion of Bloomberg. That’s dwarfed by the share — two-thirds — who view him unfavorably.

NBC News Exit Poll: As race turns negative, only Biden viewed highly favorably in South Carolina

Only Joe Biden emerged unscathed in South Carolina after the campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination entered a sharply negative phase, according to results from the NBC News Exit Poll.

As they left the polls today, voters offered an overwhelmingly positive opinion of the former vice president: 76 percent said they viewed Biden favorably, while just 20 percent viewed him unfavorably.

Those numbers put Biden well ahead of his closest rivals in South Carolina. Voters gave billionaire Tom Steyer a rating of 55 percent favorable to 37 percent unfavorable. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s rating was 53 percent to 41 percent. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s favorable to unfavorable rating was 50 percent to 42 percent.

Biden's win can only mean a Trump victory in the fall, RNC and Trump campaign predict

The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee predicted Saturday that Biden's victory in the South Carolina primary will lead only to one result: a victory for President Donald Trump in November.

"After more than three decades of trying, Joe Biden finally won a presidential primary state, but this win does not equal momentum," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. "Today’s result all but guarantees that this primary process isn’t ending anytime soon. President Trump will beat whichever socialist the Democrats — eventually — nominate this November."

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said the president was the "clear winner" regardless of the result.

"The President will be running on his solid record of achievement for all Americans and will wipe the floor with whichever Democrat is unlucky enough to emerge," he said in a statement. "The South Carolina results just prove what a hot mess the Democrat primaries are, as the field once again descends into chaos heading into Super Tuesday. We don’t know who the eventual nominee will be, but they are all the same, and their radical big government socialist policies will be on the Democrat ballot in November no matter what.”

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe endorses Biden after S.C. win

Democratic former Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe endorsed Biden on CNN after NBC News projected him the winner of the South Carolina primary. 

McAuliffe, a well-known figure within the party, also strongly urged other candidates who have no realistic path forward to drop out. 

"I've thought long and hard about this," he said. "For me, it's about beating Donald Trump and to me it's an electability issue who has the best shot at beating Donald Trump." 

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the 2016 vice presidential nominee, also endorsed Biden this week. This is an important boost for Biden's campaign as establishment Democrats line up behind the former vice president as he tries to get back his front-runner status from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The endorsement of Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., was also a factor in Biden's primary win. 

McAuliffe said that Biden will join him at an event in Norfolk, Va. on Sunday and believes Biden "has the best chance at winning Virginia in the general."