Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Clinton Thunders to Big Win in South Carolina

Published:Monday | February 29, 2016 | 2:00 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C.

Hillary Clinton overwhelmed Bernie Sanders in Saturday's South Carolina primary, drawing staggering support from the state's black Democrats and seizing an increasingly strong position as the presidential race barrels towards Super Tuesday's crucial contests.

Clinton's lopsided win - she led by 48 points with nearly all precincts counted - provided an important boost for her campaign and a moment to wipe away bitter memories of her loss to Barack Obama in South Carolina eight years ago. She won the support of nearly nine in 10 black voters, crucial Democratic backers who abandoned her for Obama in 2008.

During a raucous victory rally, Clinton briefly revelled in her sweeping support from South Carolina voters, hugging backers and posing with them for selfie photos. But then she pivoted quickly to the contests to come.

"Tomorrow, this campaign goes national," she said. "We are not taking anything, and we are not taking anyone, for granted."

Sanders, expecting defeat, left the state even before voting was finished and turned his attention to next Tuesday's delegate-rich contests.

Putting South Carolina behind him, upon his arrival in Rochester, Minnesota, Saturday night, he gave a campaign speech of more than 50 minutes to cheering supporters - and never mentioned the day's events.

Before the speech, he told reporters, "In politics on a given night, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Tonight, we lost."

Clinton's victory came at the end of a day that saw Republican candidates firing insults at each other from Super Tuesday states. Donald Trump, working to build an insurmountable lead, was campaigning in Arkansas with former rival Chris Christie and calling Marco Rubio a "light little nothing"; Ted Cruz was asking parents in Atlanta if they would be pleased if their children spouted profanities like the brash billionaire; and Rubio was mocking Trump as a "con artist" with "the worst spray tan in America".

Though Saturday's turnout was low, Clinton allies quickly touted the breadth of her victory. Besides blacks, she won most women and voters aged 30 and over, according to early exit polls.

Clinton's sweeping victory suggested that South Carolina voters had put aside any lingering tensions from her heated 2008 contest with Obama. Former President Bill Clinton made statements during that campaign that were seen by some, including influential South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, as questioning the legitimacy of the black presidential contender.

This time around, Clyburn endorsed Clinton, and her husband was well-received as he travelled the state on her behalf. She focused on issues with particular resonance in the black community and held an emotional event with black mothers whose children died in shootings.