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South Carolina Post-Mortem, Democrat Edition

As Chris Lawrence posted last night, Barack Obama handily won the South Carolina Democratic primary and native son John Edwards came in third.

Barack Obama Wins South Carolina

The results, with a record turnout, were stunning:

South Carolina Primary Results, Democrat Edition

Obama has long been projected to win, of course, but the RealClearPolitics average of the recent polls had it much closer: 38.4 to 26.8 to 19.2 As has happened with some frequency, the polls got the order of finish right and pegged the finish of the losers with great accuracy but far under-projected the ultimate vote for the winner.

Delegate Count Democrats 27 January 2008 The immediate result of this is that, if there was any doubt before, John Edwards is toast. Indeed, I’d say he’s crumbs at the bottom at the toaster at this point; it’s simply inconceivable that he’ll take the nomination at this point.

Technically, Edwards isn’t very far behind in the delegate count and could easily make up the difference. In reality, though, he’s 0-for-5 thus far in the states leading up to Super Tuesday and has lost in two states, Iowa and South Carolina, that played to his strengths. He’s vowed to stay in the race “to give voice to millions of Americans who have absolutely no voice” but I’d be quite surprised if he takes a single state.

Then again, most of us already figured that it was a two-way race between Clinton and Obama. Obviously, Obama gets a boost here from having won — especially given the margin — but it’s a pretty minor one since Clinton will almost surely win Florida Tuesday and regain the momentum.

Obama’s win was expected and the Clintons have done a good job of downplaying it. Maybe too good a job.

Bill Clinton has pointed out that “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in 84 and 88,” seemingly continuing to highlight the race issue.

While it’s silly to say that the Democrats are the Party of the Klan, as Erick Erickson says with tongue in cheek, it’s going to be very difficult for the Clintons to repair their relationship with blacks once the nomination fight is over. While it’s incredibly unlikely that large numbers will defect to the GOP over this, it could seriously hamper the get out the vote effort with a key Democratic constituency.

And it seems to have backfired in the short term, at least if the exit polls are any indication.

Roughly 6 in 10 South Carolina Democratic primary voters said Bill Clinton’s campaigning was important in how they ultimately decided to vote, and of those voters, 48 percent went for Barack Obama while only 37 percent went for Hillary Clinton. Fourteen percent of those voters voted for John Edwards

Meanwhile, the exit polls also indicate Obama easily beat Clinton among those voters who decided in the last three days — when news reports heavily covered the former president’s heightened criticisms of Obama. Twenty percent of South Carolina Democrats made their decision in the last three days and 51 percent of them chose Obama, while only 21 percent picked Clinton.

In fairness, though, the press is also playing this as a race story.

ABC’s Jennifer Parker leads her report thusly:

Sen. Barack Obama, vying to become the nation’s first black president, has won the South Carolina primary today, boosted by a record turnout of African-American voters.

Her colleagues, Gary Langer and Brian Hartman, have a companion analysis piece entitled, “Black Voters Lift Obama to S.C. Victory; Obama Showing Among White Voters in S.C. Indicates Uphill Battle Ahead.”

Black Voters Lift Obama to S.C. Victory A vast wave of support from African-Americans lifted Barack Obama to victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary. But his showing among white voters suggests an uphill battle in those upcoming primaries where black voters may play less of a role.

Blacks accounted for a majority of voters in South Carolina, 55 percent — the highest turnout among African-Americans in any Democratic presidential primary for which data are available. And a huge proportion of them, 78 percent, supported Obama, compared with 19 percent for Hillary Clinton and just 2 percent for John Edwards.

And how’s this for buying into the Clintons’ framing:

Obama’s showing among blacks echoed Jesse Jackson’s victory in the 1984 and 1988 South Carolina primaries, and also Obama’s result in this year’s Nevada caucuses, where he won 83 percent of African-Americans. At the same time, Obama also won young, nonblack voters in South Carolina, with 52 percent support from those under age 30, although they accounted for just 5 percent of all voters.

Jackson was a civil rights candidate running on black themes; that’s just not the case with Obama, who’s running a mainstream, mass appeal campaign. Still, this much is fair:

Much in the way religion has been a dividing factor in the Republican contest, with sharp divisions between evangelical and nonevangelical voters, so now is race in the Democratic presidential primaries.

AP’s David Espo and Charles Babington play the story more traditionally but still include a racial reference in their lede:

Barack Obama routed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the racially charged South Carolina primary Saturday night, regaining campaign momentum in the prelude to a Feb. 5 coast-to-coast competition for more than 1,600 Democratic National Convention delegates.

TIME’s Karen Tumulty weighs in with the alliterative headline, “Obama’s Rout Rejiggers the Race.”

Obama’s impressive win meant all the more given the nature of politics in South Carolina, a state whose history is fraught with race and class. Some observers wondered if the state’s voters were becoming more racially polarized in the final days before the primary. That speculation was fueled by one late McClatchy/MSNBC survey that suggested Obama could expect to receive no more than 10% of the white vote, half of what the same poll had shown only a week before. But Obama instead won about a quarter of the white vote overall, and around half of young white voters, on his way to a commanding 55% of the total vote (Clinton finished second with roughly 27% and Edwards came in third with 18%). The excitement around Obama’s candidacy pushed turnout to record levels – a kind of surge, says Obama strategist Cornell Belcher, that “is something only Barack Obama is capable of bringing to the table.”

[…]

Still, the sobering reality for the Obama campaign is that Clinton’s massive organization will present a formidable challenge in the 20-plus states that will be voting on February 5. Clinton, knowing that bad news was coming, didn’t even hold a final rally for her supporters in South Carolina; shortly after the polls closed, her campaign plane was headed for Tennessee. She issued a terse written statement noting that she had called Obama to “wish him well,” and adding, “We now turn our attention to the millions of Americans who will make their voices heard in Florida and the twenty-two states as well as American Samoa who will vote on February 5th.” Bill Clinton, at a rally in Missouri, added: “Now we go to February 5, when millions of Americans finally get in the act.”

One outlier here is WaPo, whose A01 story by Dan Balz, Anne E. Kornblut and Shailagh Murray focuses almost entirely on the horse race.

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.

Jay Cost looks at the racial breakdowns in the contests up to now and assesses it thusly:

Clinton has done well among Hispanics. Obama has done well among African Americans. Depending on where and when, white voters vary their support. How will that play out on Super Tuesday? We can get a sense from the following table, which reviews the states on Super Tuesday, their pledged delegates, and the percentage of their residents who are white, African American, and Hispanic:

Racial Breakdown Super Tuesday Democratic Primaries

So, if the contest continues to break down along racial lines, Obama can’t win. I continue to believe — or perhaps merely hope — that something other than race is driving the contest, though.

Interestingly, Caroline Kennedy is saying Obama would be “A President Like My Father” — and given space in the NYT op-ed section to do it:

OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

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. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

If the nomination is decided on the basis of inspiration, Obama will certainly win; Hillary simply lacks her husband’s charm and charisma — then again, Bill’s not exactly coming across as charming in his attack dog role, either. My guess, though, is that it’ll still come down to organization, experience, and Establishment support. Which means Clinton surges ahead for good next week in Florida and then takes the lion’s share of the Super Tuesday states.

We’ll see whether she can repair the damage her scorched earth campaign tactics have done after that.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Pug says:

    What is really pathetic in the media framing of Obama as winning big with black votes is that he also won in Iowa, which is 96% white and lost by only three points in New Hampshire with similar demographics.

    The real story is that Obama is the first black presidential candidate that attracts significant white support. Even in South Carolina, running against two whites he garnered 24% of the white vote.

    The story behind that story is that younger whites don’t seem to have a problem voting for a black candidate. Obama got 49% of the white voters ages 18-35. In South Carolina.

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  2. Cao's Blog says:

    Barack Obama, Kenya, his cousin Odinga and Islamic jihad…

    I work with a young leftist who is on some committee or something raising funds for Obama. I didn’t get the chance to ask him what he thinks of Obama’s muslim past…but he came over to me and was showing me his personally-signed copy …

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  3. FireWolf says:

    James I know you’re only guessing when you state this:

    My guess, though, is that it’ll still come down to organization, experience, and Establishment support. Which means Clinton surges ahead for good next week in Florida and then takes the lion’s share of the Super Tuesday states.

    But I have to disagree with your “auto-default” Clinton win. Sure, SC was a race/class primary, but, with all the media going after him, and his message still getting out there, I see this as a good fight to the bitter end.

    I don’t necessarily see Clinton getting the win just because she has some organization, and political experience.

    America after all is built on dreams and the “anything is possible” belief. So, the horses aren’t dead yet, let’s not put them down before it’s over.

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  4. Patrick T McGuire says:

    When you ignore the race issue and all other variations of which group voted for whom, it all boils down to the fact that 73% of the state voted against Hillary. Even in Michigan, she barely beat “anyone else”.

    Somehow I don’t see her as all that inevitable.

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  5. Janis Gore says:

    In a milieu where race is such a tender issue, Time couldn’t come up with a headline better than “Obama’s Rout Rejiggers the Race”?

    Are the editors unfamiliar with the old pejorative “jig” for black person?

    Why not “Jigs Jump to Join Obama’s Joust for Nomination”?

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  6. just me says:

    I agree that Hillary isn’t inevitable.

    I do think the media is wanting to frame the Obama candidacy as one of race-because they like the story, and I am not sure that helps Obama in the long run. I think the Clintons are more than happy to inject race into the election.

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  7. mw says:

    “My guess, though, is that it’ll still come down to organization, experience, and Establishment support.” – jj

    Agreed. The press loves the guy, and he does have enormous support. That will be very important in the general election. For the nomination? Not so much. We heard all this before. We are getting the same giddy coverage about Obama that we heard after Iowa. That lasted exactly until New Hampshire. This will last until Super Tuesday. The Clinton’s understand that at this stage it is more about delegates than it is about an inspirational message. Whatever hardball tactics are required to get the delegates, they’ll do it, and deal with bruised feelings and smashed toes later.

    My Take:
    Clinton will win the nomination and Obama will be her running mate. The nastier, the harder fought, the more animosity between their supporters, the more likely it is that this will happen. After securing the nomination, she’ll understand that the only way to bring the oh-so-bitter Obama constituency along is to put him on the ticket. With that ticket, the Dems have the best chance to win and probably will.It’ll be the best thing for Obama too. After 4 or 8 years as VP, the experience thing goes away, and the 2016 Presidency is his by acclamation, regardless of whether Hillary gets re-elected in 2012.

    We probably won’t even need to bother with an election. Just hand him the keys.

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  8. New director for National Hurricane Center…

    NOAA announced Friday, the appointment of Bill Read as the new director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, FL. The attached articles covers Bill’s vast experience and qualifications for this very important position….

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  9. Bithead says:

    While it’s silly to say that the Democrats are the Party of the Klan, as Erick Erickson says with tongue in cheek, it’s going to be very difficult for the Clintons to repair their relationship with blacks once the nomination fight is over. While it’s incredibly unlikely that large numbers will defect to the GOP over this, it could seriously hamper the get out the vote effort with a key Democratic constituency.

    James, assuming she wins the nomination, that fight will not end until shes not longer making herself available as a target. In other words, as long as she needs their support… be it in the general election, or God help us, if she manages to win the general election. She made it a race war, James, and frankly, my read is that this is not something she’s going to be able to repair.

    The question now before the Democrats is staying home, or not. That’s of particular import, given the tightness of the last few general elections… where 1% can make a huge outcome difference. As you say, the get out the vote effort is going to suffer under this.

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  10. […] Watch with Outside the Beltway, The Virtuous Republic, Rosemary’s Thoughts, A Blog For All, 123beta, Stuck On Stupid, Big […]

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  11. FireWolf says:

    She made it a race war, James, and frankly, my read is that this is not something she’s going to be able to repair.

    I agree Bithead, I think that’s the problem that if Hillary wins the nomination will help to ensure she doesn’t win the general election.

    You can’t divide the populace by race/class then expect them to leap into your campaign to win an election. If that’s the case then our nation is in trouble, much more than having another Clinton as President.

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  12. This Day In History — January 27, 1998…

    Two Clinton lies for the price of one. First, Hillary Clinton. Matt Lauer: “You have said, I understand, to some close friends, that this is the last great battle, and that one side or the other is going down here.”……

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  13. McCain Lies About Romney On The War…

    Just one more similarity between John McCain and the Clintons — a willingness to ignore the facts and lie outright when it is politically expedient to do so. John McCain accused Mitt Romney of wanting to set a timetable to……

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  14. Cao's Blog says:

    former Thompson staffer; “Boycott Chuck Norris”…

    This is really dumb. And it’s more along the lines of the guy who attacked Melanie Morgan. To imagine that a Thompson staffer would attempt something like this is rather disgusting. (Go over and read the comments on this thread – they’re…

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  15. Tano says:

    The chart is rather misleading, in that it gives the racial breakdowns for the general population of those states, whereas the relevant statistic would be the racial / ethnic breakdown of Democratic party members in thoes states.

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  16. Janis Gore says:

    Time is now showing Ms. Tumulty’s headline as “Obama’s win reshapes the race.”

    Good move.

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  17. just me says:

    With that ticket, the Dems have the best chance to win and probably will.It’ll be the best thing for Obama too. After 4 or 8 years as VP, the experience thing goes away, and the 2016 Presidency is his by acclamation, regardless of whether Hillary gets re-elected in 2012.

    She might make the offer, but I bet he doesn’t take it.

    8 years in the VP position doesn’t really do much to further his political career, and attaching himself to a Clinton administration may not be in his best interest.

    I don’t think the electorate has made a huge massive swing to the left to the point that they are going to want to keep democrats in power in the white house for 12 years and/or in charge of the checkbook in congress.

    Obama might do better for himself to head home to Illinois and maybe run for governor there, or stay in the senate another 8 years and run again.

    He is young, he has time, and he has time to pad his resume for another run at the office, and real executive experience that isnt’ attached to the Clintons would serve him better than the VP slot.

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  18. anjin-san says:

    The question now before the Democrats is staying home, or not.

    Well, thats a nice fantasy, but then Bit is still hunting for Saddam’s WMD too…

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  19. just me says:

    Well, thats a nice fantasy, but then Bit is still hunting for Saddam’s WMD too…

    I don’t know.

    I think it could be a proble, depending on how the primary season plays out.

    Two things-the first is that Obama is really working hard to reach voters, and get new voters.

    Second he seems to really appeal to younger voters-voters who generally aren’t so good about showing up on election day. Right now they are passionate, but are they passionate about him, or passionate about the democrats? If it is him, and he loses, they may decide to stay home.

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  20. Koremori says:

    Clinton will win the nomination and Obama will be her running mate.

    Accepting a vice-presidency in the Billary administration would be like being “promoted” to be Vice President of Workplace Diversity. There would already be two presidents in a Billary White House. So who needs a vice president at all ? Obama has nothing to gain and his self-respect to lose by letting Billary use him as their token figure head.

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  21. ‘Winter Soldiers’ repeat, STOP THEM NOW…

    There is a group named “Iraq Veterans Against the War” which is planning another lie-filled ‘investigation’ titled “Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan”, this March 13-16, 2008, (at the Capitol) to provide ‘information of the atrocities’ our f…

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  22. anjin-san says:

    There will be plenty of work for all parties in attempting to clear up the wreckage of the Bush years. Hillary, Bill & Obama, or any mixter of the three, would all have their hands full.

    And when you consider that he has an excellent shot at being president in 8 years, while still a young man, Obama would obviously have a lot to gain as VP in a Clinton administration.

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  23. teqjack says:

    There are som “if” problems with the certainty of a Clinton win. Not much. maybe, but stil.

    1. Can she actually force Florida to be accepted? Yeah, technically she promised not to campaign there and fulfilled that, but Florida may have trouble getting in at all since it broke party rules.

    2. What happens if Edwards accepts Obama’s [alleged] offer of AG soon enough to throw his supporters that way?

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  24. Cao's Blog says:

    Genocide in Kenya. Does Obama know?…

    Dear Friends,
    This is an article I wrote to the various world news papers hoping that they may publish it in an attempt to enlighten people about what is happening in Kenya and especially with the opposition leader who is trying to introduce genocide …

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  25. Conservatives Are Reaching the Point of Irrational Behavior…

    CONSERVATIVE DUPLICITYThis evening when I was watching Brett Baier’s excellent interview with President Bush I suddenly understood what is going on between the lemming conservatives lead by their narcissistic demagogues in talk radio, punditry, and i…

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  26. The Obama/Israel factor: Is there a problem waiting to happen?…

    Obama seems like the dream boy to some: young, charismatic, articulate and witty.  If presidents were only selected for personality and charm, he would win handily in the race.

    But charm only goes so far, and once that runs out, Obama do…

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  27. […] to Outside the Beltway, The Virtuous Republic, Rosemary’s Thoughts, Mark My Words, Right Truth, The Pet Haven Blog, […]

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  28. […] Trackposted to Outside the Beltway, The Virtuous Republic, Rosemary’s Thoughts, Mark My Words, Right Truth, The Pet Haven Blog, […]

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  29. Michael says:

    Tano makes a good point, do we have a breakdown of race for likely democratic voters in those states?

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  30. […] to Outside the Beltway, The Virtuous Republic, Rosemary’s Thoughts, Mark My Words, A Blog For All, Stuck On Stupid, […]

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  31. We Must Never Forget: January 28, 1986…

    GODSPEED CHALLENGER

    We will never forget your sacrifice. Michael J. Smith Dick ScobeeRonald McNair Ellison OnizukaChrista McAuliffeGregory JarvisJudith ResnikAMERICAN HEROES ALL!…

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  32. […] to Outside the Beltway, Rosemary’s Thoughts, Mark My Words, Adam’s Blog, Cao’s Blog, Leaning Straight […]

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  33. Right Truth says:

    Your Daily Political Post…

    Investors Business Daily is wondering why we hear nothing from the presidential candidates about drilling for oil on American soil and off our own shores. Good question. (hat tip Steve T. at Internet Radio Network) Our dependence on foreign oil…

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  34. Cao's Blog says:

    Rezko arrested this morning…

    Antoin “Tony” Rezko was arrested at his Wilmette home this morning. (Sun-Times/AP)

    Interesting timing, isn’t it. Via the Suntimes “Judge revokes Rezko’s bond, sends fundraiser to jail”
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  35. 01/28/08: Power…

    Liberalism is about acquiring power. Conservatism is about applying principles…….

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