Former First Lady Hillary Clinton doused Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s smouldering left-wing insurgency with an overwhelming win in South Carolina late on Saturday.
Barring a stunning turn of events – such as an unexpected but possible indictment related to her use of a private e-mail server to conduct government business when she was Secretary of State – Ms. Clinton, 68, is now poised to claim the Democratic nomination for president, eight years after she lost her last bid to return to the White House.
Super Tuesday may deliver an insurmountable lead, with 11 states and hundreds of delegates at stake, many of them in big southern states like Texas, Virginia, and Georgia, where Ms. Clinton’s advantage among minorities is huge.
Mr. Sanders was long gone from South Carolina before the sheer scale of his defeat was apparent. He lost by nearly 50 percentage points.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, tonight we lost,” he said in Minnesota, one of the few, mostly white, northern states, where he hopes to win on Tuesday.
Despite fervent support from a legion of young people and an unprecedented avalanche of small donations that stands in stark contrast to the big-money funding backing Ms. Clinton, Mr. Sanders is facing the grim reality that his improbable effort may be ending. The 74-year-old Vermont senator has been unable to derail the Clinton machine – in contrast to events eight years ago, when Ms. Clinton was initially considered the front-runner and the preferred candidate of the Democratic Party’s powerful elite, only to be beaten by a younger, more charismatic, far more inspiring Barack Obama. South Carolinians clearly didn’t “Feel the Bern,” making it the third – and biggest – loss yet for Mr. Sanders.
On “Tuesday, over 800 delegates are at stake, and we intend to win many, many of them,” Mr. Sanders told subdued supporters at a rally in Rochester, Minnesota. But apart from Vermont, his home state with only a handful of delegates, and perhaps Minnesota, Mr. Sanders’s prospects are grim on Tuesday and, as the losses pile up, financial support will ebb and the small army of volunteers will drift away.
Including pledged super-delegates – elected Democrats, former presidents, senior party officials – and ordinary elected delegates after the four states to vote so far, Ms. Clinton holds a 543-85 lead, according to an unofficial count maintained by Real Clear Politics. Few see much chance that Mr. Sanders can break the aura of invincibility Ms. Clinton has re-established.
“The fact is that South Carolina may spell the beginning of the end of Sanders’s having any real chance of winning more pledged delegates than Clinton. He needs a game-changer between now and Tuesday,” wrote Harry Enten, a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight, a premier election analytics site.
In South Carolina, exit polls showed Ms. Clinton beating Mr. Sanders 9-1 among African-Americans, who form a major part of the Democratic base in the southern states voting on Super Tuesday. She also won among women, older voters and nearly every other demographic group, except for voters under 29.
Ms. Clinton largely ignored Mr. Sanders in her victory speech to cheering supporters. Instead she focused on Donald Trump, 69, the bombastic New York billionaire who has upended the Republican Party, running as an outsider and emerged as the front-runner, despite his sometimes outrageous statements.
Mocking Mr. Trump’s slogan, Ms. Clinton shifted her attack to him. “Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again,” she said after her overwhelming win in South Carolina. “America has never stopped being great,” she added: “Rut we do need to make America whole again.”
After the four relatively small, early voting states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – both the pace and the scale of the primaries picks up.
March may decide the winners.
Ms. Clinton said: “We are going to compete for every vote in every state, … we are not taking anything, and we’re not taking anyone, for granted.”Report Typo/Error