WASHINGTON - Just weeks after announcing his presidential run, former Vice President Joe Biden led the Democratic pack in the key South Carolina race, attracting support from 46 percent of likely party primary voters in a state poll released Sunday.
Biden had more than triple the support of his nearest rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who attracted 15 percent of those surveyed, according to Charleston’s Post and Courier newspaper, which conducted the poll with Change Research.
Almost 90 percent of respondents said Biden has the best shot to unseat President Donald Trump, the newspaper reported, highlighting an emphasis on beating Trump that has vaulted Biden to the front of his party’s field of more than 20 presidential candidates. Trump has particularly attacked Biden on Twitter and in his public comments.
The state’s Democratic primary could play an increased role in winnowing the party’s large 2020 field because there may not be a clear front-runner after the Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada nominating contests that precede South Carolina’s race in February. The large proportion of black voters in the Palmetto State’s Democratic electorate also make it a important test of a candidate’s appeal to a key bloc for the party.
Biden led among black voters in the poll, the Post and Courier said. During his first campaign appearance in the state earlier in May, he emphasized threats to voting rights and his relationship with President Barack Obama as he attempted to court black voters.
Biden, who announced his candidacy April 25, was seen in the poll as the “toughest and most likable candidate with the highest name recognition and the largest favorability,” the newspaper said. It also noted his record for moderation in a state where Democrats lean conservative.
After Biden and Sanders, who represents a more progressive wing of the party and was the choice of voters under age 34 in the poll, California Sen. Kamala Harris had support from 10 percent. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren tied at 8 percent.
The poll, which was conducted from May 6-9, got online responses from 595 of the state’s likely Democratic primary voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.