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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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Warren campaign memo: 'We're in this race for the long haul'

HOUSTON — Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is making clear that they’re not going anywhere — and that, when the primary’s said and done, they believe no one will hit the delegate majority needed to claim the nomination outright. 

“We’re in this race for the long haul,” campaign manager Roger Lau wrote in a new memo out to supporters Sunday morning, in which he touted the campaign's biggest fundraising totals ever, increased ad buys in key upcoming states, and — citing “internal projections” — an expected “sizable” delegate haul on Super Tuesday from “nearly every state.”

The memo comes a day after the Massachusetts senator finished a distant fifth in South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary and does not name one state that they expect to outright win come Tuesday.

After placing third in Iowa in early February, Warren has not won any new delegates since — leaving her fourth overall in the field for delegate totals.

But the campaign points to the $29 million they say they raised in February means she has the ability to stay in the race. The campaign says their movement is now 1.25 million grassroots donors strong, with an average donation of $31. 

Warren’s team, like the other campaigns in a similar position, argues that “Super Tuesday will greatly winnow this field." And, they say that all of their Super Tuesday staffers and organizers will be re-deployed after Tuesday to states voting later in the calendar.

The memo says that “as the dust settles after March 3rd, the reality of this race will be clear: no candidate will likely have a path to the majority of delegates needed to win an outright claim to the Democratic nomination.”

The campaign also says it has increased Super Tuesday ad spending and that they’re also spending for states down the road. According to Lau, they’ve made more than $4.1 million in paid media investments in Wisconsin, as well as later March states — with a special, six-figure focus on black-owned radio stations across the March states.

“After Wisconsin nearly one-third of the pledged delegates will still be waiting to be elected, and there will be a three-week gap between electing delegates for the first time since voting began,” Lau writes. “In the road to the nomination, the Wisconsin primary is halftime, and the convention in Milwaukee is the final play.”

Sanders leads in Texas, is tied with Biden in N.C., new NBC News/Marist polls find

WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders holds a double-digit lead over his closest Democratic rival in Texas, while he’s essentially tied with Joe Biden in North Carolina, according to a pair of NBC News/Marist polls of these two key Super Tuesday states taken before Biden's convincing victory in South Carolina.

In Texas, which will award a total of 228 pledged delegates in the Democratic contest on March 3, Sanders gets the support of 34 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, and Biden gets 19 percent.

In North Carolina, which will award 110 delegates on the same day, Sanders gets support from 26 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, while Biden gets 24 percent — well within the poll’s margin of error.

Read here for the full story.

Biden takes aim at Sanders' 'very controversial' ideas after S.C. win

Biden took aim at Sanders on Sunday, saying on "Meet the Press" that Sanders’ policies are “controversial” and that the Vermont senator would lose to President Donald Trump if he were the Democratic nominee.

Americans "are not looking for revolution, they are looking for results, they’re looking for change, they’re looking for movement forward,” Biden said hours after he trounced Sanders in South Carolina's primary.

Read more here.

NBC News Exit Poll: Who first-time voters supported in South Carolina

Sanders' and Buttigieg's performances were stronger among first-time voters than among return voters in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, according to the NBC News Exit Poll.

They are the only candidates remaining in the race to consistently over-perform with first-time voters in the early state Democratic nomination contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, suggesting that they both are unusually successful at attracting new voters to the polls.

In notching his second place victory in South Carolina, Sanders received the support of 26 percent of those who said they were voting in their first Democratic presidential primary. That far exceeded his performance of 18 percent among those who had voted before.

Buttigieg finished far behind both Sanders and primary winner Biden in South Carolina. But he managed to get the votes of 16 percent of those participating in a primary for the first time. That was nearly triple Buttigieg’s support of 5 percent among those who had previously voted in a primary.

Biden's support among first-time voters, at 33 percent, was less than his support among return voters, which was  52 percent. Steyer did about equally well among both groups of voters.

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.