Joe Biden roars back into contention at South Carolina Democratic presidential primary

All of a sudden, we have a serious race on our hands.

Out of nowhere, the Democratic Party contest to choose a nominee to face Donald Trump has come alive and taken a major twist. We now have two front runners.

Until a few days ago, Senator Bernie Sanders was considered the clear favourite.

His grassroots support, along with his victories in New Hampshire and Nevada, made him a formidable force.

But the result overnight in South Carolina has given a huge boost to the wounded candidacy of Joe Biden.

Senator Bernie Sanders was the clear favourite until a few days ago. Credit: AP

In fact, the former Vice President’s campaign hasn’t just come off life-support; Biden has jumped out of his hospital bed, and is now doing the political equivalent of press-ups and jumping-jacks.

With a massive victory in South Carolina overnight, propelled by African American voters who love his association with Barack Obama, Joe Biden has real momentum heading into Super Tuesday, in just a few days’ time.

But can he use this as his springboard? Can gaffe-prone Biden suddenly - within hours, since time is running out - generate the message discipline, the mega-money from donors, and the support of Latino and young Democrats, to take the challenge to Bernie Sanders on Tuesday?

What the South Carolina result means is that the Democrats have a clarifying moment ahead.

They can choose Biden as a moderate, centrist, Establishment candidate.

Or they can go with Bernie Sanders, the self-declared democratic socialist, who is selling a political and economic revolution.

Joe Biden was propelled by African American voters in South Carolina. Credit: AP

It’s a choice between the known and unknown; between safety and a gamble.

For many Democratic party voters, as they weigh their options, it’s about who is better placed to beat Donald Trump in November.

In this Age of Disruption, does it take a fiery populist to beat a fiery populist? If that’s your belief, Bernie is your candidate.

Or does it take someone who can win centrist, independent Americans, those who are wary of whiplash politics? If so, Joe is the way to go.

South Carolina has put Biden back in the race. But Tuesday is the key. That’s when huge, diverse states come into play, including delegate-rich California and Texas.

This contest may not be settled in 72 hours, or even 72 days, but the field will dramatically narrow this week as other candidates drop out. Waiting in the wings is Donald Trump.

All that the President can know right now is that his competitor for the White House will almost certainly be Biden or Sanders.

In other words, after all of this talk of a woman candidate coming to the fore, of this being a generational, multi-racial contest, Donald Trump will be facing an elderly white man - 77 years old if it’s Biden, 78 if it’s Sanders.