Biden Rock Hill (copy)

Former Vice President Joe Biden talks to a supporter after a town hall at Clinton College in Rock Hill on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. File/Jamie Lovegrove/Staff

Continuing a trend that started even before he entered the race, former Vice President Joe Biden remains the runaway front-runner in South Carolina's 2020 Democratic presidential primary, a new poll found.

This is good news for Biden, who is struggling to stay ahead of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 race's first stops of Iowa and New Hampshire. Biden needs South Carolina to give him strength headed into Super Tuesday, which follows three days after polls close in the Palmetto State.

In a Winthrop University poll released Tuesday, Biden received 37 percent among S.C. Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, ahead of Warren at 17 percent. The results mimic findings from the most recent Post and Courier-Change Research poll taken in August.

The Winthrop Poll is significant because it is one of 16 national and early-voting state polls used to determine whether candidates make the stage for debates. It is also the most frequent poll of South Carolina attitudes, going in the field several times a year.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was third at 8 percent, followed by California Sen. Kamala Harris at 7 percent. Results for both are lower than the series of Post and Courier-Change Research polls taken this year in South Carolina, perhaps showing some separation from Biden and Warren, the leaders in national surveys.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker round out candidates receiving more than 2 percent of support in South Carolina. This is a familiar spot for the duo from past polls.

Biden has led S.C. polls dating back to February — two months before his bid began formally.

Crucial to his chances for success in the South's first primary, Biden continues to hold a commanding lead with African American voters, who cast nearly two-thirds of the state's Democratic primary ballots.

The vice president under the country's first black president has backing from 46 percent of African African voters — well ahead of Harris (10 percent), Warren (9 percent), Sanders (8 percent) and Booker (4 percent), according to the Winthrop Poll. Buttigieg, the race's surprise candidate, did not get any support from S.C. black voters, the poll found.   

Warren, who has been running as more of a progressive than Biden, leads among S.C. white voters. She has 29 percent of white support versus 22 percent for Biden.

Still, half of S.C. Democrats said they might change their mind before heading to the polls for the Feb. 29 primary. One in three voters said they are "very sure" about their 2020 pick.

But, in another positive sign for Biden, 41 percent of black voters said they are sticking with their candidate. Just 26 percent of white voters they were sure about their choice.

Not all voters are excited with the large 2020 slate of presidential hopefuls.

Roughly one in six S.C. Democrats had no opinion, did not like any of the candidates or preferred someone who is not running.

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The biggest chunk of Democratic voters overall want a nominee with a strong chance of beating Republican President Donald Trump next year, though a bulk of black voters favored someone who shares their views.

Stay up-to-date on which 2020 presidential candidates are visiting the Palmetto state with The Post and Courier's tracker. Continually updated as candidates campaign in South Carolina in the months leading up to the state’s February 2020 primary.

Tuesday was the final day for polls used to determine who made the debate on Oct. 15. The Winthrop survey also can be used for the November debate.

The Winthrop Poll results did not alter the lineup of a dozen 2020 candidates who have qualified for the October debate.

For November, the poll did not help entrepreneur Andrew Yang or businessman Tom Steyer in making that debate. They both need one more good showing to qualify but failed to reach the 3 percent threshold in the poll.

Booker was aided with his S.C. performance, but he still needs one more qualifying poll to make the November debate.

The Winthrop Poll surveyed 462 Democratic and Democratic leaning registered voters from Sept. 21-30. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent.

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