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Obama Is Big Winner in S.C. Primary

Video
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

The real battle will be the nearly two dozen states that vote on Feb. 5. Almost 1,700 delegates are at stake that day -- slightly more than half of the pledged delegates to the Denver convention -- and the two campaigns will throw enormous resources into the contest.

"Obama's given himself another chance," said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who is unaffiliated. "The question is: How big a bounce does he get out of this? He's going into Super Tuesday behind in a number of major states. . . . He gives himself a chance to get back in the game in a serious way."

The racial makeup of most of those states is far different from South Carolina's, with smaller black populations and larger Latino populations. Clinton carried the Hispanic vote in last Saturday's Nevada caucuses and hopes to repeat that in states such as California, Arizona and New Mexico.

The exit polls in South Carolina showed Obama winning a majority of both men and women, and winning most categories of voters. But there were clear racial splits, with African Americans solidly behind Obama and white voters divided among the three candidates.

Inside the Obama campaign, a nervous energy built in the final days here. Internally, the numbers continued to look solid, but advisers feared that the arguments with the Clintons would tarnish Obama's image as he prepared to pivot to Feb. 5. But as Saturday unfolded, concern gave way to elation. At about 4 p.m., Obama emerged from his downtown Columbia hotel wearing sweats and basketball shoes, headed to a local gym to play with a group of Secret Service agents and staffers.

South Carolina political veterans said Obama's ground organization was one of the best they had seen, consisting of 9,000 volunteers and nearly 150 voting-day staging areas. His operation overlooked no potential source of votes.

Most significantly, Obama virtually swept the African American vote despite rejecting typical tactics deployed in the South; aides said they hadn't paid "street money" to local leaders and community organizers to get people to the polls. Obama campaign officials had bragged about bucking this long-entrenched system, but they weren't certain until Saturday whether it would work.

Kornblut reported from Tennessee with the Clinton campaign. Murray reported from South Carolina with the Obama campaign.


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