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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

Buttigieg wins just 2 percent of black voters in South Carolina, exit polls show

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Pete Buttigieg won just 2 percent of black voters in South Carolina en route to a landslide defeat in the Democratic primary here, according to NBC News exit polls.

The disappointing result is likely to reinforce doubts about Buttigieg on an issue that has dogged him throughout his campaign — his struggles to win votes from one of the party’s most influential constituencies, one that has powered the winner of every contested Democratic primary since 1992.

The NBC News exit poll found that Biden won 64 percent of the black vote, followed by Sanders with 15 percent, Steyer with 13 percent, and Warren with 4 percent. The exit poll said South Carolina’s electorate is 57 percent African American, the first majority-black primary on the calendar.

Congratulating Biden on his victory Saturday night, Buttigieg addressed the black community.

"I want to thank voters in South Carolina, especially black voters who showed that famous southern hospitality over the last year, welcoming us into their homes and churches and neighborhoods and businesses," he said.

Buttigieg thanks S.C. supporters 'especially black voters,' but fails to get African-American backing

Pete Buttigieg thanked his supporters, “especially black voters," on Saturday night after appearing to suffer a heavy loss in South Carolina, where he invested heavily in and ultimately failed to gain support from African-American voters.

Running for president, Buttigieg told supporters at an event in Raleigh, North Carolina, was an “exercise in hope and humility, and we’ve come down south filled with both.” 

Buttigieg congratulated former Vice President Joe Biden on his win in South Carolina and attempted to look past the difficult loss, saying he was proud of the “votes we earned and am proud to earn every vote on the road ahead.”

Gaining the support of black voters became an immense challenge for Buttigieg in South Carolina, where the Democratic Party is much more diverse than the contests in which he did particularly well.

Despite spending more time in South Carolina than other candidates and focusing on reaching out to the black community, A Monmouth University poll of likely Democratic voters in the state released Thursday found that the former Indianapolis mayor had only 2 percent backing from African Americans.  

After finishing his speech with the announcement that “in 2020 we are ready to come together to end the era of Donald Trump and launch the era that must come next,” Buttigieg opened up his event to questions from the audience.  

Watch Buttigieg's full speech.

Klobuchar says she is 'headed into Super Tuesday' despite poor showing in S.C.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., spoke at the Blue North Carolina Celebration in Charlotte Saturday night, assuring the crowd she is still in the race despite her dismal results in the South Carolina primary. 

“Here I am, headed into Super Tuesday,” Klobuchar said. North Carolina votes on Super Tuesday, or March 3.

With 69 percent reporting, Klobuchar had received 3 percent of the vote — far below the 15 percent threshold needed to receive any delegates.  

“If you feel stuck in the middle of the extremes in our politics, you've got a home with me,” she added.

Billionaire Tom Steyer quits Democratic primary race

Tom Steyer, the California activist billionaire who has largely been a nonfactor in the Democratic primary campaign, dropped out of the race on Saturday night.

Steyer made the announcement following a disappointing finish in the South Carolina Democratic primary Saturday night. With 56 percent of the vote in, Steyer had just 11.7 percent of the vote — despite spending millions of dollars on campaigning there.

Steyer had initially opted against entering the presidential race before reversing course and joining the large field in July. He spent exorbitant sums of his own money on the race, outpaced in the Democratic field by another late-entrant, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul.

Read the full story here. Watch Steyer's full speech after quitting the Democratic race.

After Joe Biden's win, Bloomberg emphasizes his endless 'resources'

At the Blue North Carolina Celebration dinner in Charlotte, Bloomberg focused his remarks on his heavy investment in the state— 10 offices and 124 staffers — his nearly endless resources and his differences with President Donald Trump.

Bloomberg highlighted his ability to spend his immense wealth on the election and took credit for flipping 21 House seats in the 2018 midterm elections to make Nancy Pelosi the speaker. All his efforts, he said, were to hold Trump accountable.  

"If you think my campaign is expensive, just think what four more years of Donald Trump will cost our country," he said, also slinging several arrows at the president for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Bloomberg also dismissed his poor debate performances, which has caused his campaign to stumble. His opponents, particularly Warren, hit Bloomberg numerous times during his previous two appearances.

But none of that mattered, the New York City billionaire said, the country needed "a commander-in-chief, not a college debater-in-chief."

Warren attacks Sanders, Biden, Bloomberg and says her campaign is 'build for the long haul'

Warren went back to her old stomping grounds to address supporters in Houston, where she previously taught at the local university, after a tough projected loss in the South Carolina primary. 

"Our campaign is built for the long haul - and we’re looking forward to these big contests," she said, referring to Super Tuesday. 

She framed her speech around the threat of coronavirus and excoriated Trump's response to the fears of a possible global pandemic, pointing to a series of plans she plans to release to protect public health and the American economy.

"This moment is a reminder of what qualities we need in a president - and what qualities are so sorely lacking in the one we have," she said. 

She also took direct shots at Biden, Sanders and Bloomberg.

"Let’s be blunt. This crisis demands more than a billionaire mayor who believes that since he’s rich enough to buy network airtime to pretend he’s the president, that entitles him to be president," she said. "This crisis demands more than a former vice president so eager to cut deals with Mitch McConnell and the Republicans that he’ll trade good ideas for bad ones."

She added, "This crisis demands more than a senator who has good ideas, but whose 30-year track record shows he consistently calls for things he fails to get done, and consistently opposes things he nevertheless fails to stop."

Watch Warren's full speech.

Biden: My campaign is 'very much alive'

Hours after he was projected to win the South Carolina Democratic primary in a landslide victory, Joe Biden excitedly thanked his supporters and loudly declared that his campaign “was very much alive.”

“To all of those who have been knocked down, counted out and left behind, this is your campaign,” Biden said to a raucous crowd at his state campaign headquarters in Columbia, S.C.

Joe Biden speaks at his primary night event at the University of South Carolina on Feb. 29, 2020 in Columbia, S.C.Scott Olson / Getty Images

Biden said that the “the press and the pundits had declared this candidacy dead,” but “now, thanks to all of you, the heart of the Democratic Party, we won and we won big because of you.”

“And we are very much alive,” he continued. “This campaign is taking off!”

“You brought me back,” he added, prompting screaming and applause.

Biden also took a thinly veiled shot at Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist who had been deemed the front-runner in the race.

America, he said, “wants a nominee who is a Democrat … a proud Democrat.”

Watch Biden's full South Carolina victory speech.

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.