Saturday, January 26, 2008

Barack Obama Wins South Carolina Primary

Barack Obama handily defeated Hillary Clinton in South Carolina's Democratic primary this evening. The Washington Post has the story:

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won the South Carolina primary in a landslide Saturday, attracting a biracial coalition and giving his candidacy a much-needed boost as the Democratic presidential race moves toward a 22-state showdown on Feb. 5.

Obama trounced New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the first southern primary of the 2008 campaign, with former North Carolina senator John Edwards finishing third. After a bitter and racially charged campaign in which former president Bill Clinton became the center of controversy, Obama won with overwhelming support from African Americans, but also attracted roughly a quarter of the white vote, according to exit polling.

Obama's big victory margin means the battle for the Democratic nomination continues without a clear front-runner. Obama and Clinton have now split the first four contests of the campaign and the candidates face the possibility of an extended conflict that aides in both campaigns said Saturday could stretch into March or even April.

Clinton currently leads in a number of the biggest states with contests on Feb. 5, including California and New York, and her campaign has predicted that she will emerge from the competition that day with a lead in convention delegates. Obama has set his sights on winning more states than Clinton on Feb. 5 and in preventing her from jumping into a big lead in the battle for delegates.

Clinton's campaign had anticipated a loss in South Carolina and sought throughout the week to play down the significance of the vote here. But the size of Obama's victory margin was far larger than her advisers or any pre-primary poll had anticipated, as Obama demonstrated an ability to energize his supporters on a day when turnout appeared likely to break the previous record for a Democratic primary.

Clinton left the state shortly after the polls closed and issued a written statement in which she congratulated Obama. But she signaled the fierce battle ahead by saying, "We now turn our attention to the millions of Americans who will make their voices heard in Florida and the twenty-two states as well as American Samoa who will vote on February 5th."

"He won fair and square," Bill Clinton told supporters in Missouri Saturday night.

Edwards, who won South Carolina four years ago, appeared to capitalize on the bickering between the Clinton and Obama, winning nearly half of the white voters who made up their minds in the final three days. But after three consecutive third-place finishes, he now must decide whether continuing his candidacy will result in him becoming a potential powerbroker or a spoiler.
Read the rest.

Obama captured the state's black vote decisively. But the Illinois Senator also secured significant white support, as did Senator Edwards.

I just finished watching Obama's victory speech. For all the talk about Obama as a new Democrat, with a vision for a rejuvenated 21st-century politics, his speech offered a tremendously class-driven, populist appeal, likely to divide the country more than unite it. He called for the immediate end to the war in Iraq - coded antiwar language for an immediate troop withdrawal, precisely when military and political developments are at their best since March 2003.

His supporters, I must say, seemed to rock the decibel-meter more so than any victory speech I've seen this year. Maybe I just have the volume set a bit high. It sure seemed that the energy was just pumping out of the auditorium.

Obama gained what he needed most going forward: momentum. He'll see a surge in contributions next week, and a priceless rush of earned media, as his visage's further splashed acrossed newspapers, magazines, and TV news shows around the country following this Palmetto State breakthrough.

Hillary Clinton still leads decisively in national public opinion, of course. Her post-New Hampshire comeback faced a hiccup with this first Southern primary. February 5 is will probably be the most important "Super Tuesday" in the history of American presidential primaries.