3. Biden's big bet
Most Joe Biden admirers Axios interviewed in South Carolina, where he's vowed to win today's primary, said they're unfazed by his embarrassing losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Alexi McCammond reports from Columbia.
- Why it matters: Biden has bet it all on South Carolina to position himself as the best alternative to Bernie Sanders — his "good buddy," he tells voters before skewering Sanders' record and ideas.
The state of play: If Biden wins South Carolina commandingly, he has momentum for Super Tuesday, three days from now. But if Sanders manages to even come close, it'll fuel his juggernaut.
- Polls show Biden leading here by 20 points, but his supporters feel the weight of his national political survival on their shoulders — and Sanders is whittling away at Biden's lead.
By the numbers: Real Clear Politics polling averages have Sanders in the lead in California, Virginia, Texas and North Carolina — all big Super Tuesday states.
- FiveThirtyEight estimates that if Sanders were to win in South Carolina, he could end up with a little more than half of all the pledged delegates after Super Tuesday.
What we're seeing: Unlike in Iowa and New Hampshire, where voters shop around to the end, some South Carolinians we met had already voted early and were still showing up to their candidates' events.
Joe's hand: Many voters said they felt a personal connection with Biden because of his longtime ties to the state.
- Biden has vacationed there for years. And his friendship with Rep. Jim Clyburn, who endorsed the former vice president this week, gives Biden credibility with older African-American voters.
- In South Carolina, where a majority of Democratic voters are African American, you can't talk to a Biden supporter without Barack Obama's name also coming up. "He trusted Biden," said Sue Gibbs, 68.
Bernie's hand: The fact that Sanders is in second place in South Carolina — after being crushed there in 2016 — shows how fast Democratic politics are changing.
- Luke Waldrop, 23, said a Sanders win in South Carolina would send a massive signal to the country that he can beat Trump: "We’re not known for being the most forward-thinking as far as Democratic candidates go."
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