Election 2020

Is Biden Finished? His 'Firewall' Black Voters Now Prefer Bernie

From left, Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden, talks before a Democratic presidential primary debate, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Former Vice President Joe Biden started the 2020 Democratic primary as the frontrunner, but his gaffes, weak debate performances, and uninspiring campaign have taken a real toll on his support. After finishing fourth place in Iowa, fifth place in New Hampshire, and a distant second in Nevada, Biden is hoping for a strong win in South Carolina to breathe new life into his flagging presidential bid. He has long looked to black voters as his “firewall” — a term he now denies ever using — and that firewall seems to be collapsing.

According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday, black voters have flocked from Joe Biden to current frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-USSR) and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (D-PILES OF CASH). Sanders nearly tied for first in Iowa and won both New Hampshire and Nevada handily. Bloomberg is hoping an extremely late entry into the race and a strong showing on Super Tuesday will turn him into the anti-socialist candidate to beat Bernie. The Democratic establishment appears to have hoped Joe Biden would fill that role, but even his “firewall” is dwindling into ashes.

According to the poll, 26 percent of black voters (likely only Democrats and Independents, but the report is not clear) said they would vote for Sanders, up 7 points from a previous poll. Biden took second with 23 percent, down 10 points. Another 20 percent expressed a preference for Bloomberg, a gain of 10 points for the billionaire.

Black Democrats have long looked at Biden as the most electable candidate, the most likely to defeat Trump in November. Yet after Sanders’ wins in the early states, 26 percent of registered Democrats and Independents said they view him as the most electable 2020 Democrat. Bloomberg took second at 20 percent, while Biden lagged behind with 17 percent.

Among all registered Democrats and Independents, Sanders enjoyed a strong lead at 26 percent, with Bloomberg and Biden tied at 15 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-1/1024th of a Plan) and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg tied at 10 percent.

Biden still enjoys a strong lead in South Carolina, 10.8 percent ahead of Sanders in the RealClearPolitics polling average. Even so, this recent poll suggests former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) was correct when he said Biden’s support among black voters is “soft.”

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.