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"South Carolina is very important": Democrats vote in last primary before Super Tuesday

Candidates face final pre-Super Tuesday vote

South Carolina Democrats are going to the polls on Saturday, the last primary before Super Tuesday. Former Vice President Joe Biden is hoping for his first 2020 win and Senator Bernie Sanders has momentum from his victories in Nevada and New Hampshire, and his popular vote lead in Iowa. 

The state is seen as a bellwether for Democrats, since black voters, considered crucial for the party's victory in November, make up a majority of the Democratic party electorate in the state. 

Polls close at 7 p.m. ET. 

A Monmouth University poll published Thursday showed Biden leading – 36% to Sanders' 16%, and Tom Steyer at 15%. 

In the spin room after the fiery debate in Charleston on Tuesday, Biden said that winning by "one point is enough." 

"I think it's just important that I win. One point is enough, but I think I'm going to win by a lot more than that," Biden said. 

Biden won the key endorsement earlier this week o fcongressman James Clyburn, the third highest ranking Democrat in the House and one of the most powerful forces in South Carolina politics. Clyburn cast his vote Friday for Biden, saying "I'm going with Joe because he has the experience, he has the background, he has the record."

"This is the first opportunity with a diverse background which reflects what the voting populace of Democrats is all about," Clyburn said. "South Carolina is very important."

In last-minute campaigning in the state, Biden and Sanders both slammed President Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

"Everybody knows there is a coronavirus spreading all over the world," Sanders said at an event in St. George, South Carolina. "You would think that you'd have a President of the United States leading, working with scientists all over the world, bringing people together to figure out how we're gonna deal with this crisis."

"He is here in South Carolina — he doesn't even have any opposition in the Republican primary," said Sanders.

Biden said: "I have news for Donald Trump: Like the rest of us this virus is not impressed by his tweets."

Biden has spent 24 days in the state during 11 visits, while Sanders has spent 23 days in the state over 12 visits.

Tom Steyer also spent 23 days in the state, but over 10 visits. Steyer boasts of a huge staff in the state and has creeped up on Biden and Sanders in the polls, coming in third in the latest CBS News Battleground Tracker on February 23 with 18%.

Elizabeth Warren, who has spent 22 days in the state over 15 visits, needs a strong finish. The latest CBS News Battleground Tracker has her in a distant fourth place behind Steyer, with just 12% of the vote.

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are both polling in single-digits, a bad sign for campaigns that have struggled with African-American voters. Buttigieg has been trying to get the message across to black voters that he understands the importance of their support and what they endured to win the very right to vote.

"It is humbling to ask anyone for their vote, but it is particularly so when addressing black voters whose vote was earned through generations of struggle," Buttigieg said at a National Action Network breakfast in North Charleston on Wednesday. "Through blood and sweat and tears just to have access to the ballot box. And a vote that for so many was only won within living memory. And so I'm asking for that vote knowing how hard won it is, knowing it is the vote of those with a great deal at stake."

Mike Bloomberg is not on the ballot in the state and he campaigned in Texas, a Super Tuesday state, ahead of South Carolina, on Friday.
 
South Carolina's primaries are open, meaning all registered South Carolina voters can participate in either party's primary regardless of political affiliation. The organizer of the Spartanburg Tea Party told CBS News her group is encouraging Republicans to vote for Sanders over Biden. 

LaCrai Mitchell, Cara Korte, Jack Turman and Blythe Edwards contributed reporting. 

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