The race in the Palmetto State was called Saturday almost the instant polls closed, giving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a huge win and sending her forward into Super Tuesday with decidedly strong momentum.
For Clinton, the South Carolina primary provided not only a triumph over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders but much needed redemption after losing in the state eight years earlier to then-Sen. Barack Obama.
“I am so greatly appreciative because today you sent a message: In America when we stand together there is no barrier too big to break," Clinton told a cheering crowd during her victory speech after she was introduced by South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn. "And, tomorrow, this campaign goes national. We are going to compete for every vote in every state. We are not taking anything — and we are not taking anyone — for granted."
Clinton roused the crowd with her vision to unite the United States and said that barriers need to be torn down to promote equality. In calling for those changes, she was delivering an implicit rebuke to businessman Donald Trump, a potential Republican challenger in the November general election, and making note of the historic significance should she become the first woman president of the U.S.
"Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again — America never stopped being great," Clinton said referencing Trump's campaign slogan. "But, we do need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers. We need to show by everything we do that we really are in this together."
With nearly all the votes counted Saturday night, Clinton led Sanders by a 47-point margin. But Sanders, in his statement, insisted he was still in the race. “Let me be clear on one thing tonight. This campaign is just beginning. We won a decisive victory in New Hampshire. She won a decisive victory in South Carolina. Now it’s on to Super Tuesday,” he said.
But Clinton's victory is likely be followed up with a good showing Tuesday, where Clinton leads Sanders in 9 out of the 11 states voting. Those states, with 1,004 delegates up for grabs, represent 21 percent of the total available and a good portion of the 2,382 delegates needed to win the Democratic primary outright. Super Tuesday will be followed soon after by votes in Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Maine on March 5.
To South Carolina, to the volunteers at the heart of our campaign, to the supporters who power it: thank you. -H pic.twitter.com/JFTUZ2yBxf
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 28, 2016
Clinton went into South Carolina with the majority of the delegates — boosted by widespread support from superdelegates — and has beaten Sanders in two of the first three nominating states, Iowa and then Nevada. Clinton’s victory speech in South Carolina can be watched here.
Before South Carolina, Clinton had amassed 505 delegates (including superdelegates, who could theoretically change their mind and support Sanders instead) compared to just 71 for Sanders. The Palmetto State has 53 delegates in total.
Clinton’s 27.5 percent lead over Sanders in South Carolina polls before Saturday, with 58.2 percent of the state’s Democratic support, is a much different scenario compared with eight years earlier. The 2008 primary got heated between Clinton and Obama, who eventually swept the state’s primary with 55.4 percent of the vote compared to Clinton’s 26.5 percent. He was widely supported by African-American voters, a critical demographic in the state. This time around, those voters generally favor Clinton.
The South Carolina primary was never considered a tight race. In contrast to national polls, where Sanders has made up considerable ground in the past year, Clinton has always maintained a healthy lead over her opponent in polls in South Carolina and has never dipped below 48 percent support.
That's not to say that the road has been smooth and straight for the former secretary of state. Clinton has watched while her competitor attracted enthusiastic support compared to her seemingly tepid base. Poll after poll has given her the label of the unliked and untrusted candidate. Questions have swirled around her record as secretary of state and whether she sent classified state secrets through a private email server, disregarding policies of the Obama administration to keep correspondence on secured government servers.
But after South Carolina, Clinton now has another victory to point to as she works toward a general election campaign and November.