Clinton sails to commanding victory in South Carolina primary

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gestures to the crowd as she takes the stage for a campaign event at Miles College Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Fairfield, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Hillary Clinton sailed to a commanding victory over Bernie Sanders in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, drawing overwhelming support from the state’s black Democrats and putting her in strong position as the race barrels toward Super Tuesday’s crucial contests.

Clinton’s win provided an important boost for her campaign – and a moment to wipe away bitter memories of her loss to Barack Obama in South Carolina eight years ago.

During a raucous victory rally, Clinton briefly reveled in her sweeping support from South Carolina voters, then quickly looked ahead to the contests to come.

“Tomorrow, this campaign goes national,” she said. “We are not taking anything, and we are not taking anyone, for granted.”

Sanders, expecting defeat on Saturday, left the state even before voting was finished and turned his attention to some of the states that vote in next Tuesday’s delegate-rich contests. In a statement, Sanders vowed to fight on aggressively.

“This campaign is just beginning,” he said. “Our grass-roots political revolution is growing state by state, and we won’t stop now.”

Clinton allies quickly touted the breadth of her victory. Besides blacks, she won most women and voters aged 30 and older, according to early exit polls.

Sanders continued to do well with young voters, his most passionate supporters. He also carried those who identified themselves as independent and most white voters.

A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders has energized his supporters with impassioned calls for breaking up Wall Street banks and making tuition free at public colleges and universities. But the senator from Vermont, a state where about 1 percent of the population is black, lacks Clinton’s deep ties to the African-American community.

While Sanders spent the end of the week outside of South Carolina, his campaign did invest heavily in the state. He had 200 paid staff on the ground and an aggressive television advertising campaign.

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton celebrate at her primary night watch party as the polls close with projections indicating her likely win in the South Carolina Democratic primary in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton celebrate at her primary night watch party as the polls close with projections indicating her likely win in the South Carolina Democratic primary in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Clinton’s campaign hopes her strong showing in South Carolina foreshadows similar outcomes in states like Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia that vote Tuesday and have large minority populations.

Taken together, 865 Democratic delegates are up for grabs in the Super Tuesday contests in 11 states and American Samoa. Sanders is hoping to stay close to Clinton in the South while focusing most of his attention on states in the Midwest and Northeast, including his home state of Vermont.

Sanders has built a massive network of small donors and has the money to stay in the race deep into the spring. Still, Clinton’s campaign sees a chance to build enough of a delegate lead to put the race out of reach during the sprint through March.

Clinton’s will pick up most of South Carolina’s delegates, widening her overall lead in AP’s count. With 53 delegates at stake, Clinton will receive at least 31. Sanders picked up at least 12.

Going into South Carolina, Clinton had just a one-delegate edge over Sanders. However, she also has a massive lead among superdelegates, the Democratic Party leaders who can vote for the candidate of their choice at this summer’s national convention, regardless of how their states vote.

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