Obama Is Big Winner in S.C. Primary

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama addressed supporters in Columbia, S.C. after winning the state's Democratic primary. Video by AP Editor: Francine Uenuma/washingtonpost.com
By Dan Balz, Anne E. Kornblut and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 27, 2008

CHARLESTON, S.C., Jan. 26 -- Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois won the South Carolina primary in a landslide Saturday, attracting a biracial coalition that gave his candidacy a much-needed boost as the Democratic presidential race moves toward a 22-state showdown on Feb. 5.

Obama trounced Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York in the first Southern primary of the 2008 campaign, winning 55 percent of the vote to Clinton's 27 percent. Former senator John Edwards of North Carolina was third with 18 percent.

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 and attracted about a quarter of the white vote, according to exit polling.

"After four great contests, in every corner of this country, we have the most votes, the most delegates and the most diverse coalition of Americans that we've seen in a long, long time," Obama told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in Columbia who interrupted his victory speech with chants of "Yes, we can!" and "Race doesn't matter!"

Obama depicted the Democratic race as "the past versus the future." But he told supporters they are facing a formidable challenge, and then, alluding to controversies that erupted with the Clintons last week, said, "This is our chance to end it once and for all."

Obama's big victory margin means the battle for the Democratic nomination will continue 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 a conflict that aides in both campaigns said Saturday could stretch into March or even April.

In a move certain to spark more warfare with the Obama campaign, Clinton set her sights on Tuesday's beauty-contest primary in Florida as a way to blunt Obama's South Carolina momentum.

That contest is not sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee, and the candidates earlier agreed not to campaign there. But Clinton, who leads in polls there, signaled Saturday night that she will seek a public relations victory in a state that will turn out more voters than in any contest to date.

Clinton currently leads in a number of the most populous 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 hopes to win more states than Clinton on Feb. 5, but he will be equally focused on 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 Obama's victory margin was far larger than her advisers or any pre-primary poll had expected, 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 in the state.

Clinton left South Carolina shortly after the polls closed and delivered her concession speech in Nashville. She briefly offered her congratulations to Obama and then plunged into a version of her standard stump speech. "I want to tell you how excited I am that now the eyes of the country turn to Tennessee and the other states that'll be voting on February 5th and, of course, to the state of Florida that will be voting on Tuesday," Clinton said.

Her husband was campaigning in Missouri, another Feb. 5 state, and said there that Obama had won "fair and square." But before leaving South Carolina, he compared Obama's victory to those of Jesse Jackson in the same state in 1984 and 1988. "Jackson ran a good campaign and Obama ran a good campaign here," he said.

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