CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The Biden campaign vowed victory in the upcoming South Carolina primary ahead of Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, insisting the race is “just getting started” after failing to notch a win in the first three contests.
Biden campaign senior adviser Symone Sanders told reporters in Charleston that former Vice President Joe Biden would draw a “sharp contrast” between his record and his rival candidates during the debate, and that he “intends to win” the primary in the state on Saturday.
As the race nears, Biden has himself backed away from using the term “firewall” to describe his support in the state, but his campaign is maintaining its stronghold.
“We fully intend to win South Carolina,” Sanders said. “We feel great about our ground game -- we have good ground game here. We’ve spent a lot of time in the state, we’ve invested a lot of resources in the state, and we think we will do extremely well.”
She added: “We’re not concerned about losing South Carolina because it’s not going to happen.”
Biden finished second in Nevada after a lackluster performance early in the nominating calendar. His finish in Nevada gave him the much-needed momentum heading into South Carolina this week. Biden suffered disappointing fourth- and fifth-place finishes, respectively, in the overwhelmingly white Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, but Nevada’s more diverse electorate seemingly put Biden back on track.
Biden has long claimed the South Carolina primary would be a virtual lock for his campaign -- even calling it his “firewall.”
According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, Biden is in the lead in South Carolina with 26.8 percent of the vote. But the race is likely to be tight, as self-described Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders is nipping at Biden’s heels with 21.7 percent.
Despite what happens in the primary in the Palmetto State on Saturday, the Biden campaign suggested it will be in it for the long haul.
“We believe it’s going to be a long race, ladies and gentlemen, and again on Super Tuesday, about one-third of the delegates needed in this race [is] up for grabs,” Sanders said. “This is just getting started -- you need 1,991 delegates to be the Democratic nominee. Not even one-fourth of those delegates have been allocated just yet, so I just think this is a long haul.”
She added: “I encourage everyone to pump your brakes.”
Meanwhile, Sanders claimed a huge victory in Nevada and has nearly swept the early nominating calendar, which has strengthened his status as the front-runner in the crowded Democratic primary field.
But the prospect of Sanders leveraging that momentum into Super Tuesday to build a daunting delegate lead next Tuesday has set off alarm bells in the Democratic Party, with critics warning that his nomination would pave the way for President Trump’s reelection and potentially hurt Democrats' chances of maintaining the majority in the House or taking the majority in the Senate.
Some Democratic party elders have even suggested that some lower-performing moderate candidates suspend their candidacies and rally around one candidate who could come up with the majority of the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination this summer.
When asked whether or not the campaign supported that thought process, Sanders said she would not pontificate.
“The Democratic nominee since 1992 has been the person who can garner the majority of support from African-American voters in this country -- that does not just happen in Iowa or New Hampshire. It started in Nevada, it will continue in South Carolina on Saturday, then it goes forward into Super Tuesday,” she said.
“We believe we will garner enough delegates to win this nomination,” she continued. “We have been able to build a broad and diverse coalition -- and there are other candidates in this race that have not.”
She added: “We don’t believe that the Democratic nominee should be someone that cannot build that broad coalition, that cannot demonstrate that they can earn votes and support from the African-American and Latino community.”
“So go ask those candidates that have been able to garner that support about what they’re going to do about their campaigns,” she said. “Because we’ve done our jobs.”
Fox News' Madeline Rivera contributed to this report.