We touched on the trend Wednesday with some recent positive polling for former vice president Joe Biden in the Palmetto State, but today brings even better news for his drifting campaign. According to a new Monmouth University poll, Biden could be pushing a twenty point lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders, his closest rival at this point.

Here’s the breakdown and detailed results:

Monmouth University South Carolina Democratic Primary Poll
Conducted Feb 23-25 | Source

  • Joe Biden – 36%
  • Bernie Sanders – 16%
  • Tom Steyer – 15%
  • Elizabeth Warren – 8%
  • Pete Buttigieg – 6%
  • Amy Klobuchar – 4%
  • Tulsi Gabbard – 1%

Sufficed to say, Biden needs these numbers and he needs South Carolina voters to prop him up before Super Tuesday. Monmouth isn’t the only pollster capturing the pro-Biden trend among Democratic voters, the rest of the RCP average is showing an uptick with Biden now leading Sanders by an average of 14 points:

Where is Biden’s strengthening support coming from? According to Monmouth’s crosstabs, it’s African-American voters coming home to Biden after flirting with other candidates the past week weeks:

“Biden appears to be holding on to his core support among African Americans in South Carolina. The recent endorsement by Rep. James Clyburn should help solidify that,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Black voters, who form a majority of the likely primary electorate, back Biden (45%) by a wide margin over Steyer (17%) and Sanders (13%). White voters are more divided, with Biden (26%) followed by Sanders (17%), Warren (13%), Buttigieg (13%), and Steyer (12%).

In short, Biden’s plan for South Carolina acting as his firewall, the first state with a large black voting population, is coming to fruition at the very last minute. Most politicians, when they’re doing poorly, will tell you the only poll that counts is the one taken on election day when voters actually cast their votes. In Biden’s case, this couldn’t be truer.

To take a contrarian view to the poll numbers, however, FiveThirtyEight does see some potential pitfalls for Biden since his numbers aren’t what they once were in the state:

Biden’s support among all voters had slid about 10 points in our national polling average. And among black voters, his support has fallen from 43 percent before Iowa to just 31 percent after New Hampshire. Meanwhile, both former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Bernie Sanders have gained about 11 points among black voters in the same period. In fact, Biden and Sanders share nearly the same percentage of support among black voters now.

Biden still has strong African-American support, but the numbers have been trending downward. In the last two days, though, the bleeding may have stopped and could be on a reversing trend.

Bernie Sanders may have run into a state where he is unable to topple some of the party’s establishment powers that be. South Carolina has some different characteristics than the prior states. For starters, it’s a primary, not a caucus like Iowa and Nevada. Secondly, it’s a state that is set in the deep south, not in the northeast literally neighboring Sanders’ home state of Vermont. We’re now playing the fourth round of an entirely new ballgame on a different playing field and what sells in other states might not sell the same in South Carolina.

The results will be interesting on Saturday if Biden does hold on and score a reasonably commanding victory, with Sanders coming in behind him, perhaps fighting with Tom Steyer. Where Steyer will end on Saturday is a wild card. He doesn’t have any real support beyond South Carolina, so a third-place finish there might end up being his high watermark of the campaign if it happens.

The South Carolina Democratic Primary takes place on Saturday, February 29.