His decisive win may slow Sanders’ momentum, but the results on Super Tuesday will give a clearer picture of whether Biden’s bump makes a difference with enough voters to change the contour of the race.
Tuesday will also mark a crucial test for Michael Bloomberg. The former New York City mayor didn’t appear on the ballot in South Carolina and has put all his political eggs in the giant basket of Super Tuesday states. Without strong finishes in at least a couple of contests, the cracks in Bloomberg’s efforts will grow harder to ignore.
A slate of other Democratic candidates remains in the race. But they may soon face pressure to drop out, as billionaire businessman Tom Steyer did after Biden’s victory Saturday. Steyer placed a respectable third in the South Carolina contest, finishing just a few points behind Sanders. But he banked most of his hopes in the South Carolina contest and wasn’t polling well in other states.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, once the presumed front-runner for the nomination, finished in fifth place on Saturday night, just ahead of Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Still, there’s an important caveat on contenders’ minds: Democratic Party rules now award delegates proportionally—meaning no winner-take-all states allowing candidates to amass large delegate counts quickly.
That may motivate candidates with a handful of delegates to stick around to see if they can rack up enough supporters to stay in the race—potentially blocking Sanders from securing enough delegates to secure the nomination ahead of the party’s nominating convention in July.
Pete Buttigieg eschewed that strategy: The former South Bend mayor placed fourth in the South Carolina contest and remained third in the overall delegate count. On Saturday night, he appeared to have 26 total delegates. Biden had at least 34 in the early count. (Sanders remained considerably ahead with at least 48 delegates.)
The magic number to secure the nomination: 1,991.
But on Sunday evening, Buttigieg dropped out of the race, saying he would work to help unify the Democratic Party to defeat Trump.
In South Carolina, Buttigieg was among the candidates learning about the tough realities of retail politics. His campaign reported more than a thousand people gathered for a rally in South Carolina on the night before the primary, but a few days earlier Buttigieg met a far less friendly crowd at a McDonald’s in Charleston.
A group of protesters demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage formed a picket line outside the restaurant, and Buttigieg decided to join. Some in the crowd were friendly, but others resented what they thought was a photo op for the candidate. About a dozen activists began chanting: “Pete can’t be our president!”
A video of the incident shows Buttigieg’s alarmed staffers hurriedly moving him toward a black SUV as a handful of protesters chased him away. Buttigieg jumped in and headed for another campaign stop but faced a question other Democratic contenders may soon contemplate: Which candidate will voters chase out of the race next?
Updates to this article clarify that Terry McAuliffe is the former governor of Virginia and show that Pete Buttigieg ended his campaign on Sunday.