Biden wins and Sanders slips in South Carolina presidential primary ahead of Super Tuesday

Joe Biden has claimed victory in South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary election and ended progressive rival Bernie Sanders’s winning streak.

The 77-year-old rode a wave of African American support in the first poll in the US South, to beat Mr Sanders, who won primaries in Nevada and New Hampshire and virtually tied for first in Iowa.

The former vice president needed to spark momentum after underwhelming performances in those states and Iowa, and days ahead of so-called “Super Tuesday”, when voters in 14 states and one territory will decide a third of the delegates to this summer’s Democratic convention.

Biden won about 60% of the votes cast by non-white voters, dominating a crowded Democratic field among a group that made up more than half of the electorate.

He also performed strongly with older voters, women, regular churchgoers and moderates and conservatives, according to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of more than 1,400 voters in South Carolina's Democratic primary.

Biden's win ended Bernie Sander's winning streak. Credit: AP

Biden's strength with the state's African American voters helped him edge out second-place finisher Bernie Sanders.

The Vermont senator won roughly 15% of African American voters, while billionaire Tom Steyer won 16%.

Sanders had hoped to chip away at Biden's support by winning over young black voters, who may be more likely to be drawn to Sanders' liberal politics and less likely to give Biden credit for serving as President Barack Obama's No. 2.

But black voters under 45 were roughly split between the two candidates - a sign that Sanders' appeal among younger voters had its limits in South Carolina. Sanders held on to young voters under 30 overall, but his grip weakened among liberal voters.

Biden picked up 60% of the votes cast by non-white voters in South Carolina. Credit: PA

South Carolina’s primary provides the first deep look at the opinions and beliefs of African American voters, will continue to wield influence in upcoming races and will be critical to Democrats' chances of winning the White House.

The inability of Democrats to mobilize African Americans in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan likely contributed to their 2016 loss to President Donald Trump.

Biden has staked his campaign on mobilising these voters and harkening to the legacy of the nation's first non-white president.

It's a message that appeared to carry special appeal in South Carolina, where voters held a greater sense of nostalgia for the Obama presidency than voters in earlier contests.

Biden managed to galvanise the African American vote in South Carolina. Credit: AP

Mr Sanders’s performances prior to South Carolina had prompted some Democrats to raise fears he could cost the party control of the House of Representatives if he is selected as its presidential nominee.

His rivals rounded on him during the latest televised debate of the campaign, while Mr Biden argued only he has the experience to lead, following his previous time in the White House.

Mr Sanders spent Saturday afternoon campaigning in downtown Boston, the heart of liberal ally Elizabeth Warren’s political territory, after previously acknowledging he did not expect to win in South Carolina.