Feb. 29 (UPI) -- Exit polls showed Joe Biden winning the South Carolina Democratic primary Saturday.
Initial delegate estimates place the former vice president in second place, with Vermont senator Bernie Sanders -- who has swept the first three races -- holding onto his frontrunner status.
According to exit polls, Biden won more than 50 percent of the vote in the state, giving him at least 14 of the 54 delegates at stake.
By CNN's estimate, as of Saturday that gives him 29 overall delegates, behind Sanders' 45.
Former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg is in third place with 26 delegates, and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren trails with eight. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has also struggled in the primary season, picking up just seven delegates so far.
The victory comes just a few days ahead of Super Tuesday, when candidates will compete for 1,344 delegates in primaries in 14 states and American Samoa, and after an aggressive effort on Biden's part to win black voters and more moderate voters.
It takes 1,991 pledged delegates to win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot of the Democratic National Committee Convention, which takes place this July in Milwaukee, Wisc.
Despite strong polling early in the campaign, Biden had lagged behind Sanders, who self-identifies as a democratic socialist and has registered independent for most of his political career, though he has changed his registration in order to run as a Democrat in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic races.
In a speech to supporters in Virginia, where he is campaigning in advance of Super Tuesday, Sanders conceded the South Carolina race and extended his congratulations to Biden.
"We have won the popular vote in Iowa, we have won the New Hampshire primary and we have won the Nevada caucus. But you cannot win them all. There are a lot of states and tonight we did not win," Sanders said.
"Although you've been knocked down, counted out, left behind, this is your campaign," Biden told supporters in South Carolina Saturday. "Now we've just won and we won big because of you."