Amid chants from a diverse audience of supporters shouting, “Yes we can,” Barack Obama addressed a highly animated crowd after a resounding victory in South Carolina. Obama won the primary by a country mile with 55% of the vote, Clinton coming in second with 27% of the vote. In third place was John Edwards with 18%. After yet another record voter turnout, Clinton was visibly shocked by the wide margin of her loss to Obama after a bitter campaign in the state.
"Our time for change has come," Obama told an enthusiastic audience, which interrupted him with chants of, "Race doesn't matter."
"We're up against the conventional thinking that says your ability to lead as president comes from longevity in Washington or proximity to the White House," Obama said. "But we know that real leadership is about candor and judgment and the ability to rally Americans from all walks of life around a common purpose, a higher purpose.”
"We're up against decades of bitter partisanship that cause politicians to demonize their opponents instead of coming together to make college affordable or energy cleaner. It's the kind of partisanship where you're not even allowed to say that a Republican had an idea, even if it's one you never agreed with. That's the kind of politics that is bad for our party, it is bad for our country, and this is our chance to end it once and for all."
``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 the cheering crowd of supporters in Columbia, South Carolina.
"The choice in this election is not about regions or religions or genders. It's not about rich versus poor, young versus old and it's not about black versus white. It's about the past versus the future."
Obama beat Clinton among African-Americans 81 to 17 percent (nearly the identical margin in Nevada), and also won enough support from white voters to score a commanding overall victory. Obama's big win sets the stage for the face-off on Super Tuesday, February 5, when 22 states hold Democratic primaries or caucuses.
South Carolina not being a winner-take-all state, Obama gained 25 convention delegates; Clinton won 12 and Edwards eight as a result of the contest. Overall, Clinton has 249 delegates, followed by Obama with 167 and Edwards with 58.
Caroline Kennedy gave her endorsement to Obama in an op-ed piece in the New York Times. She likened the Illinois senator to her late father, President John F. Kennedy. Indeed, the Obamas emit a Kennedyesque youthful vitality.
"I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them," she wrote. "But for the first time, I believe I have found a man who could be that president — and not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."
“Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things…Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning,” wrote the daughter of John F. Kennedy. The South Carolina finish followeda highly confrontational series of exchanges between Obama and the Clintons. Bill Clinton's incursion into his wife's campaign appears to have reminded Democrats why they were glad to be rid of the pair at the end of the '90s.
During the recent debates, John Edwards had to insist that he was still there as one of the contenders as Obama and Clinton set off fireworks in a heated sparring contest. Edwards has vowed to continue his fight to Super Tuesday despite the loss in South Carolina.
Senator Obama was obliged to respond to a rather rude question during the Democratic debate when moderator Joe Johns quoted author Toni Morrison, who called Bill Clinton the nation’s first black president. “Do you think Bill Clinton was our first black president?” Johns asked as the crowd and members of the media laughed. Why they found this question humorous or even remotely worthy of comment defies logic, but Obama managed the question handily. The necessity of posing such a question makes the media and the Clintons seem hypocritically patronizing.
“Well…..” Obama began, “I think Bill Clinton did have an enormous affinity with the African American community and still does - and I think that’s well earned.” Diffusing some of the fireworks, Obama continued, “Now, I have to say that I would have to investigate more of Bill’s dancing abilities and some of this other stuff before I accurately judge whether he was, in fact, a brother.”
Further damaging his wife’s campaign, Bill Clinton later angered and stunned black voters by his comment on Jesse Jackson having won in South Carolina but later losing the election. "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here." Why he felt it necessary to single out Jesse Jackson leaves quite a negative impression of Mr. Clinton’s hidden true thoughts.
In a telephone interview, Sharon Toomer, founder and managing editor of BlackandBrownNews.com, said Clinton's tone toward Obama "was demeaning.” She went on to say, "He was calling him a boy, a kid, living in a dream land. I don't think he deserves the title of being a friend or being the first black president."
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, one of the most powerful African-Americans in Congress, said it was time for Bill Clinton to watch his words. Clyburn also said he was disappointed with comments from Hillary Clinton that many took to suggest President Lyndon Johnson had more to do with passing the Civil Rights Act than Martin Luther King Jr.
Nearly 350,000 Democrats have cast early votes in Florida, and party officials predicted that about 400,000 will have voted by Primary Election Day. Only 97,000 Democrats voted early in the 2004 presidential primary. There are 4.14 million Democrats registered to vote in Florida’s primary on Tuesday, January 29.
Florida results could help set the stage for Super Tuesday on February 5. The number of Democrats who have voted in Florida has already exceeded the turnout in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada combined. The Democratic National Committee's Rules Committee stripped Michigan and Florida of their delegates as punishment for moving up their presidential primaries. Ultimately, state Democrats hope the Democratic nominee, who controls what happens at the convention, will make sure Florida's delegates count. The nominee can't afford to antagonize key activists in a swing state with 27 electoral votes.