The South Carolina primary was held yesterday for the Democrats and Barack Obama has walked it in. He had a huge victory there against his two opponents, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. Obama received 55% to 27% to 18%. He received more than double the vote of second place. That, my friends, is a huge victory for Obama. In terms of delegates, Obama picked up 25, Clinton 12, and Edwards 8.
And it’s the most important win to get after Iowa. It’s the last primary for the Democrats before Super Tuesday where 22 states vote on the 5th of February. All the pundits were saying that he needed a convincing win to grab attention to become an outside chance for staying even with Clinton through Super Tuesday. They were saying that a 15 point win would be enough. This was a 28 point win, and in the light of it, the race has had a shake-up.
Before we get to the fallout of the vote, I want to break down some of the voting statistics. Obama beat Clinton in the women vote – 54% to 30%. Obama won in each of the age groups, but absolutely dominated in two of the demographics. For the 18 – 29 group (the ‘youth’ vote) Obama received 67% of the vote, Clinton 23%, and Edwards 10%. For the 30 – 34 group, Obama got 62%, Clinton 23%, and Edwards 15%. These stats were never a no-brainer. Obama has campaigned for the ‘youth’ vote much like J.F.K. did. And it’s not a bad group to target, because it’s the most motivated group of voters. Similarly, it’s a group of voters who are looking for a ‘change’ in politics – someone who isn’t a Clinton or shoddy Republican. It’s no coincidence then that Obama’s campaign slogan is ‘Change’.
For the 45 – 59 age group, it was Obama’s again with 55%, to Clinton’s 26%, and Edwards’ 19%. And the final age group, 60+ (the group that Edwards and Clinton both poll better in), Obama 38%, Clinton 35%, Edwards 27%. A close race in this group, but incidental.
Now we come to the ‘race’ vote. The state needed to deliver two things for Obama, and it did deliver two things, but only one of those things Obama had been asking for. For the ‘black’ vote, Obama received a massive 78% of the vote, compared to Clinton’s 19% and Edwards’ 2%. But for the ‘white’ vote, Obama only received 24% to Clinton’s 36%. A win here would have made headlines before winning the state. But that’s not all, and the least important. Edwards won the ‘white’ vote in the state – 40%. That’s the big surprise, that 3rd placed Edwards registered better among white voters than Clinton. This fact, I expect will make the papers soon, and both the Obama camp and the Edwards camp spin it like there’s no tomorrow. It also should be a worrying fact for Clinton.
Though, in terms of the ‘race’ vote, Obama continually plays it down, rather than playing it up for his own advantage. That’s a sign of a real candidate, and an honest politician. Someone who doesn’t manipulate, what should be, unimportant factors of the race. Unlike Bill and Hillary Clinton, who dragged the issue up. A fair few writers are suggesting that Hillary polled so badly because of Bill’s antics leading up to the vote.
So what does the state mean in the race? Well, it’s the first southern state, and it was Obama who won it. It has the potential to start a trend. Something else the state forces is for the Clinton campaign to address it. If Obama had only won by a slight margin, the could have simply dismissed the win as a part of the democratic process. And then it would have been spun by them that of course Obama would win – half the state’s Democratic voters are African-American. And with such a polling among black voters, it contradicts polls that were saying he was struggling to beat Clinton that that department. Of course, previous results had already contradicted the polls, when he was registering 70% to 80% in the other early states. The state also brings up issues of electability. Iowa showed that Obama can win white votes. South Carolina shows that he can win the African-American votes. Clinton can’t seem to win both.
If this trend continues, and Obama picks up majority of the ‘black’ vote, then Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee stand a good chance to be his. These are three states (southern too) where there is a significant proportion of ‘black’ voters among the Democratic voters. Throw this onto Illinois, another Super Tuesday state and his home state, and he has a good and solid base to exit Super Tuesday with. Clinton will be hoping to dominate the votes in her pseudo-home state of New York, next-door New Jersey, and the delegate monster of California (where she polls the best among the Hispanic vote) to pull her through Super Tuesday. Of course, without the ‘winner takes all’ system, Obama can still force a close race in these three states.
There has also been some ‘tangible’ results coming out of the wake of South Carolina. First, and purely symbolic, Caroline Kennedy, the last surviving child of John F. Kennedy, and who is a much revered Democrat, has come out and endorsed Obama. Another, and more potent and important endorsement from the Kennedy family, comes from Caroline’s uncle Senator Teddy Kennedy, nicknamed the Democrat Lion. For the past year, Teddy has refused to even comment on the primary race, meaning his endorsement now is even more powerful. He cited Obama’s ability to unite the country as a contributing factor. A lot of the Democratic establishment are framing this as a ‘torch passing’ endorsement from the Kennedys to Obama. These are both big endorsements for the Democratic and American psyche too, especially since J.F.K. and Obama are often spoken about in the same sentence.
And let’s not forget that Senator Kennedy represents Massachusetts, the state where fellow Obama endorser John Kerry hails from, and quite rich in delegates. All this lends favour to Obama winning that state too.
As influential endorsements, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Arizona Republic have both endorsed Obama (and John McCain for the Republicans). The Arizona Republic is Arizona’s largest circulated newspaper, which will mean a good and big boost for Obama in the state. The Philadelphia Inquirer is a much needed endorsement for Obama in the state after the Democratic Governor Ed Rendell endorsed Clinton through the week. The Inquirer went so far to say that Clinton being elected would “be a catalyst for division when the nation longs for unity”. Hard words there, but true.
And all of this came from the Obama romp in South Carolina. The big thing is, though, momentum for Super Tuesday. The Iowa win gave Obama the momentum to run close in New Hampshire, win Nevada, and then rout South Carolina (much like what my post in September ’07 suggested). Now, all of those combined, with the extra force of the South Carolina statistics and endorsements, will give him much needed momentum for Super Tuesday. It’s the next big thing for the Democrats (ignoring Florida, which doesn’t count), and it used to be thought that it would be the decider of the race. Not this time. If Obama can stay competitive, win some states, split the delegates where Clinton was hoping to win, then it will come out even, and who knows what could happen then.
To finish up then, the current count of delegates for the candidates, including superdelegates:
Hillary Clinton: 230
Barack Obama: 152
John Edwards: 61
Mike Gravel: 0