KEY POINTS

  • A new FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos says 59% convinced Sanders has the best chance of beating Trump in November
  • A new CBS News-YouGov poll has Biden as this person
  • The race for the Democratic Party's presidential nominee now looks more like a two horse race

For former vice president Joe Biden, the South Carolina Democratic primary February 29 will prove if he's got the moxie to become a tough contender to current frontrunner, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT.

Playing catch-up to Sanders is unfamiliar territory to Biden. The former vice president once held a 30 point lead over everyone else in the Palmetto State before Sanders' run of victories in New Hampshire and Nevada, and his photo finish for first place in Iowa. Sanders now leads the delegate race and is heavily favored to run away with the most wins in the huge Super Tuesday primaries set for March 3 in 14 states that account for a third of all delegates.

But Biden can take heart in a new CBS News-YouGov poll showing him the favorite presidential candidate among 28% of voting Democrats and Independents in South Carolina compared to Sanders' 23% and billionaire activist Tom Steyer with 18%. It's a slim lead but it's a lead nonethess.

Now, however, a more recent poll from FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos conducted using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel threatens to rain on Biden's parade. This poll of 2,943 respondents from South Carolina showed 46% voting for Sanders; 38.1% for Biden; 32.3% for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA; 28% for former mayor Mike Bloomberg; 27.8% for former mayor Pete Buttigieg; 17.4% for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN; and 7.1% for businessman billionaire Tom Steyer.

Respondents were asked the electability question: "What do you think their chances would be of defeating Donald Trump in November 2020? Use a scale of 0 to 100 with 0 meaning absolutely certain to lose to Trump and 100 meaning absolutely certain to defeat Trump. For each candidate enter a number from 0 to 100."

The result has 59% saying Sanders has the best chance of unseating Trump. A close second was Biden with 56%; Bloomberg took 50.8% of the vote; Warren, 47.5%; Buttigieg, 45.4%; Klobuchar, 37.1%; and Steyer, 27.8%.

Biden has always polled well among blacks and Latinos but Sanders' win in the recent Nevada caucus saw him sweep the Latino vote. Sanders won Nevada with 46.8% of the vote to Biden's 20.2%.

Political pundits credited Sanders' win to expert organizing, “a substantial paid media campaign” and big spending while other Democrats cut down on spending.

The FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll was conducted using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, which interviews the same group of voters twice: once on either side of the debate, to capture both the “before” and “after” picture.

US former vice president Joe Biden (L) and liberal Senator Bernie Sanders were two of the six candidates who clashed during the final Democratic presidential debate before Iowa begins the voting process on February 3, 2020 US former vice president Joe Biden (L) and liberal Senator Bernie Sanders were two of the six candidates who clashed during the final Democratic presidential debate before Iowa begins the voting process on February 3, 2020 Photo: AFP / Robyn Beck