Updated 9:48pm ET.
Columbia, South Carolina
It’s not over, folks—but it’s getting there. The land that was supposed to slide for Hillary Clinton finally slid, as the former secretary of state won the South Carolina primary today by an overwhelming margin. With 99% of votes counted, Clinton had 73.5% of the vote.
Clinton’s win, which was widely expected though not by so large a margin, puts Vermont senator Bernie Sanders into an even deeper hole in the increasingly one-sided contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In her victory speech, Clinton targeted Donald Trump:
Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again. America has never stopped being great. But we do need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers.
The race in South Carolina was a pulse-check on one of Clinton’s most vital sources of support: black voters. They were the linchpin for Clinton’s ability to grab a huge share of South Carolina delegates—and, by implication, a slew of other southern states on Super Tuesday next week. Without that support, Clinton’s lock on the nomination would have looked much shakier.
NBC reported that Clinton had a large margin of victory among black voters and women, and Sanders won a smaller majority among white voters and young people.
After a startlingly large defeat in New Hampshire, Clinton began campaigning heavily in South Carolina, focusing in particular on winning over black women. Her efforts seem to have paid off.
The victory puts Bernie Sanders further off the pace he needs to win the nomination—the Cook Political Report estimated that Sanders needed half of the state’s 53 pledged delegates to avoid slipping even further behind.
Clinton’s decisive win here tonight should bolster her confidence as she heads into the primaries on Mar. 1, when 11 states vote. It also must feel a bit like redemption: In 2008, Clinton headed into the state as the party’s chosen one—only to be massacred by an upstart Illinois junior senator named Barack Obama, 55.4% to 26.5%. Among South Carolina’s black voters, who made up more than half of the state’s Democratic primary voters, the beating was even more brutal: Obama 78%, Clinton 19%.)
Clinton’s South Carolinian supporters must also be savoring her triumph. For Democrats living in a state so red it just about glows, this vote counts much more than the one they’ll cast in November.
Samuel McCoy, 89, has been planning to vote for Clinton since she announced her candidacy. But for him, like many South Carolina Democrats, the effort to secure her nomination wasn’t just about Clinton.
“I think she’ll make a good president—she’ll keep [carrying on] the really good job Obama has done,” he told Quartz at a rally in Rock Hill led by her husband, Bill Clinton. “She’ll continue his legacy.”
Kayla Roberts, an 18-year-old high school student in Florence, has been volunteering for the Clinton campaign since early January. While she’s looking forward to putting someone with Clinton’s background and experience in the Oval Office, Roberts is looking backward as well.
“It’s important to me that she can carry out Obama’s legacy,” she told Quartz. “Keeping his healthcare program and other [signature achievements]—that’s very important to Democrats in this state.”