Bernie Sanders just might win the South Carolina primary on Saturday.
That’s the real headline out of a new poll conducted by NBC and Marist College that shows Sanders trailing longtime South Carolina front-runner Joe Biden by a narrow 27% to 23% margin, with five days of campaigning remaining. (Several recent polls have suggested a similar tightening.)
Roughly 1 in 3 Biden backers in the poll (32%) said they might vote for another candidate on Saturday. Just more than 1 in 10 Sanders supporters (12%) said the same. That’s broadly consistent with what we’ve seen throughout this primary to date; Sanders has the most committed support, while Biden’s has been among the least committed.
More on the poll: Among voters with a clear candidate preference or those who had already voted, more than 7 in 10 (72%) Bernie-backers said they “strongly supported” him. Among those with preference for Biden that strong support was at 61%. Again, a clear passion/enthusiasm gap there.
Biden is still the first choice of black voters, but Sanders — and billionaire businessman Tom Steyer — are holding their own. Biden takes 35% among black voters to 20% for Sanders and 19% for Steyer. That’s a stunning contrast to the 72 percentage-point margin that Sanders lost black voters to Hillary Clinton by in the 2016 South Carolina primary. For Biden to win, he badly needs to run up the score among black voters — especially because he is losing whites to Sanders in this poll by 8 points. If Sanders and Steyer can combine to win 4 (or so) out of every 10 black votes in Saturday, Biden’s path to victory get rockier.
To be clear: Biden still has to be considered the favorite to win on Saturday. He has based his entire campaign on his support in the black community and, more specifically, in the black community in South Carolina. And he’s still ahead, according to this NBC-Marist poll as well as plenty of the other available data.
Rep. Richmond, Biden campaign National Co-Chair, says they’ll win South Carolina: