Biden, Sanders see momentum heading into Super Tuesday

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a primary night election rally in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Joe Biden said Sunday he can “unite this country, the whole country” after scoring a thundering victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary that could force moderate rivals out of the race and blunt the rise of progressive leader Bernie Sanders.

Biden vowed he would improve his campaign operation, his fundraising haul — and even his own performance — as the race pushes toward Super Tuesday, making the case he is the candidate that can win up and down the ballot and in states beyond those voting next week.

“I feel good,” Biden said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I can win and I can bring along Democratic victories.”

Biden commanded the airwaves with back-to-back interviews after Saturday’s win, which came on the strength of African American support and at a perilous moment in his 2020 bid. He needed an emphatic rebound after underwhelming performances this month in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

The race now pivots to the 14 states from Maine to California that vote on Tuesday in what in effect will be a national primary in a race increasingly becoming a match-up between the two powerhouses representing divergent paths for the party.

Sanders led in fundraising hauls announced Sunday with an eye-popping $46.5 million for February, his campaign said. The senator said it’s not the total amount that should impress but the enthusiasm of working people digging into their pockets for his candidacy.

“No campaign out there has a stronger grassroots movement than we do,” Sanders said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “That’s how you beat Trump.”

Fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren brought in $29 million last month and Biden trailed with $18 million, but the former vice president said he raised $5 million in the last 24 hours, which is more than any previous day in his bumpy campaign.

Seven candidates remain in the Democrats’ quest to find the strongest possible nominee to take on President Donald Trump in November.

Pressure is mounting on the trailing candidates to justify their campaigns or step aside so Biden can engage in a more direct match-up against Sanders, who heads into the coming week eager to surpass his rivals in amassing delegates for the nomination.

“It’s not for me to tell another candidate to get out of the race,” Biden said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Biden made his own direct attack on Sanders saying, “The people aren’t looking for revolution. They’re looking for results.”

Biden won about three times as many delegates in South Carolina as Sanders, his nearest rival, giving a momentary respite to anxious Democrats who feared that the democratic socialist would finish February with four consecutive top finishes that would make it difficult for anyone to overtake him.

The Associated Press declared Biden the winner just after the polls closed in South Carolina. The AP based the call on data from AP VoteCast, a survey of the electorate conducted for the AP by NORC at the University of Chicago. The survey showed a convincing win for Biden.

Even with the victory, the shortcomings of Biden’s campaign remain, including a lack of robust funding and organization, and next week for the first time he will face Mike Bloomberg, a billionaire who has spent more than $500 million advertising in the Super Tuesday states. Bloomberg announced his own plan to deliver a three-minute prime-time address Sunday night on two television networks. He didn’t say how much he paid for the air time, which is unprecedented in recent decades.

Biden is barely running any television advertising in Super Tuesday states. And both Sanders and Bloomberg have many more staff and volunteers.

But Biden is making an aggressive round of media appearances on Sunday in an effort to counter Bloomberg’s massive spending. He’s also working to secure endorsements from prominent Democrats and, shortly after the Saturday results were in, he got the backing of former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Biden downplayed the lack of an endorsement from former President Barack Obama, whose name he often invokes on the campaign trail to voters nostalgic for his administration. Biden said on ABC he has to earn this “on my own.”

The South Carolina primary was the first major test of the candidates’ appeal among black voters. That courtship will continue on Sunday when many of the White House hopefuls travel to Selma, Alabama, to participate in ceremonies commemorating civil rights heroism.

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