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Politics Chat: Super Tuesday Is Next In Election 2020


South Carolinians say Joe Biden should be the Democratic presidential nominee. It's the first primary in the South and the first state where African Americans make up a lion's share of the electorate. And it sets up Super Tuesday this week when 14 more states vote. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now. Good morning, Mara.


FADEL: So Biden came in first in yesterday's South Carolina Democratic primary by a lot - 48% compared to 20 for the runner-up Bernie Sanders. What does that say to you?

LIASSON: It says that Joe Biden is the comeback kid, at least for now. He won the chance to resurrect his campaign. He came into South Carolina really trailing the pack with embarrassing losses in the first couple of states. But he left as the leader in the popular vote so far and very competitive for delegates. South Carolina does have the best record historically of picking both Republican and Democratic nominees.

South Carolina also had the biggest jump in turnout. And it didn't turn out for Sanders. Of course, Sanders says that he's going to win by bringing in tremendous numbers of new voters. That didn't happen this time. Joe Biden really did win in every group - whites, blacks, independents. He beat Sanders. And now he has the chance to build on that.

FADEL: So how much of an impact will South Carolina actually have on Democratic primary voters? I mean, these candidates have been working the Super Tuesday states since well before this weekend. And a lot of these voters that are voting on Tuesday, they vote early in their states, right?

LIASSON: Yes. And that is a really good question because, when electability is such a top-of-mind concern for Democrats, they are paying a lot of attention to how the candidates are doing in debates and in primaries and caucuses. But, yes. They have been voting already in states.

One thing about Biden's win - it wasn't just big. It came early in the evening during prime time when a lot of people were watching. And his speech came during prime time. And I would say that speech that you just played a clip of was the single best performance that Biden has turned in of the campaign. It was coherent. It was crisp. He read from a teleprompter. There was no meandering or shaggy-dog stories. But that being said, Biden now has about five minutes between now and Super Tuesday - no time to catch his breath, let alone time to raise gazillions of dollars and create an organization that, so far, does not exist.

And, you know, Jim Clyburn and other supporters of Biden's have been just brutal in public about how his campaign needs to step up its game in order to get through the next phase of this contest, which is the equivalent of a national primary. Remember, Bernie Sanders has tremendous amounts of money, big organization and leads in the polls in big delegate-haul states like California.

FADEL: So shifting for a moment to a different candidate who will be on the ballot on Super Tuesday - what do you make of the three-minute address on the coronavirus that Mike Bloomberg is buying ad time to make tonight on NBC and CBS?

LIASSON: Well, it shows you what a lot of resources can do. You know, presidents usually have to go on bended knee to the networks and ask for time to give a prime-time address. And Mike Bloomberg is just buying the time. He clearly believes he has a story to tell the country about how he could be a more effective manager in a crisis than the president has been. He was a former three-term mayor of the country's biggest city.

But the question is he - you only get one chance to make a first impression. And Bloomberg, when people saw him as a candidate, not just as a campaign commercial - when they saw how he performed or didn't perform on the debate stage, his numbers have plateaued or even dropped. So the question is, will a three-minute prime-time address help him get out of that hole?

FADEL: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.