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Why AP called South Carolina for Biden: Race call explained

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden won the South Carolina primary on Saturday, the contest that revitalized his 2020 campaign and now has given him his first official victory in his bid for a second term.

The Associated Press declared Biden the winner at 7:23 p.m. based on an analysis of initial vote results showing him with a decisive lead in key locations throughout the state. At the time the race was called, Biden was leading statewide with about 97% of the vote, nearly double the 49% he received in the 2020 primary. Almost an hour after the race was called, Biden’s vote percentage remained largely unchanged at about 97%.

His only challengers on the ballot this year, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and self-help author Marianne Williamson, each had failed to crack the 2% mark at the time Biden was declared the winner.

The president carried all 46 counties in the primary four years ago, a feat he is so far on track to repeat in Saturday’s contest, according to initial returns. Biden also won all 55 delegates up for grabs in the primary.

Four years ago, Biden prevailed in South Carolina against a highly competitive field that included U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg of Indiana and billionaire Tom Steyer, who poured millions of dollars into the state and dropped out after his third-place finish. South Carolina was Biden’s first victory that year, after placing fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and a distant second in Nevada.

Last month, Biden won the New Hampshire primary as a write-in candidate with a 44-point lead over Phillips, his closest competitor. Iowa and New Hampshire have traditionally kicked-off the presidential primary calendar, as they did this year for the Republicans, but the Democratic National Committee rejiggered the schedule and moved South Carolina to the coveted first-in-the-nation spot at Biden’s urging.

Black voters play a key role in Democratic primaries in the state. U.S. Census figures show that more than a quarter of South Carolina’s population is Black, while Black voters made up half of the Democratic electorate in the 2020 primary, according to AP’s VoteCast survey of voters that year.

Biden’s strongest performances in the 2020 contest were in counties with majority or near-majority Black populations. Initial results Saturday showed that pattern continuing, with the president receiving at least 97% in counties such as Dillon, Marion, Sumter and Williamsburg.



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