Think about this: Joe Biden is betting his four decades of White House chasing on winning a party primary in a state that the former vice-president has zero chance of winning in the November election.
After a Plinko chip tumble in Iowa and then going down another peg in New Hampshire before “improving” to a distant second place finish in Nevada, Biden is poised to do something he hasn’t pulled off in his entire political career: actually win an election outside of Delaware.
For months the alleged consensus front runner took a battering that the famed island fort that guarded Charleston Harbor suffered in the opening moments of the Civil War.
And though his campaign had been reduced to rubble, enduring the compounded indignities of having trailed Bernie Sanders thrice, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren twice, and Amy Klobuchar once, Biden finally smells the opportunity to come in first some place.
Biden’s campaign has sustained itself through the headscratching losses with the hope of a big rebound in a state where blacks are expected to cast a majority of the votes in Saturday’s Democratic primary.
The former vice-president has benefited from his close association with Barack Obama, backing from prominent black political leaders, a fiery campaign style, and the withdrawal of all of the African-American candidates in the race.
Furthermore Biden’s propensity to make gaffes on the stump and allegations of familial grift related to Ukraine has not damaged his standing with black voters.
Biden benefited from strong support from African-Americans in the Nevada caucuses and though the ex-veep didn’t win the contest Biden did walk off with nine delegates while showing a modicum of viability as the primary calendar approaches the money round, i.e. Super Tuesday.
Biden has also been ignored by his rivals in the recent Democratic debates, with Sanders and billionaire Michael Bloomberg drawing most of the fire.
Polling data indicate that Biden is expected to win big, with one recent survey giving him a 16- point lead over Sanders.
However if Biden were to somehow lose South Carolina or even underperform, it could be the knock out blow that essentially ends his candidacy.
Sanders has made an aggressive move to improve his dismal share of the black vote four years ago while the lesser known billionaire candidate Tom Steyer has invested considerable money in the Palmetto State.
Steyer’s messaging to black voters include support for historically black colleges and universities and a reparations plan. Unlike his poor showings in the first three states, Steyer has consistently scored a respectable third in South Carolina polling.
With Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg unlikely to hit delegate thresholds in South Carolina and focusing most of their efforts and resources in Super Tuesday states, the big question will be if their pockets of support stand by their candidate or vote strategically by lining up behind someone with a shot at getting delegates.
Putting all your eggs in a single basket is risky but sometimes it pays dividends.
And historically South Carolina ends up serving as that make or break place for many of those who went on to secure the party nomination.
South Carolina bailed out the flailing campaigns of George Bush (1988), Bill Clinton (1992), Bob Dole (1996), George W Bush (2000), Barack Obama & John McCain (2008), and Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump (2016) after poor showings in either Iowa or New Hampshire.
Joe Biden is hoping that South Carolina has the same impact for him on Saturday.