The race was called in South Carolina as soon as the polls closed. Hillary Clinton won 73.5 percent percent of vote to 26 percent for Bernie Sanders, an overwhelming victory of nearly 50 points, outpacing even Clinton’s dominant poll showings leading up to the vote.
Based on exit polling, she won 84 percent of the black vote, even better than Barack Obama did in defeating her eight years ago. Here’s a good story from Molly Ball in the Atlantic earlier this month on how Clinton won the black vote.
These kinds of numbers suggest that she will run up the score on Tuesday, when a number of Southern states vote, many with a significant blocks of black voters. We are in a stretch of the calendar that almost certainly assures Clinton of the nomination, even if Sanders sticks around to keep things competitive. For all the breathless drama covering the race, the dynamic here was easy enough to see even when Sanders pulled off a tie in Iowa and his big win in New Hampshire, two states that represented uniquely friendly territory for his campaign.
The key point now is delegate math (even leaving aside the superdelegates): the proportional delegate-allocation rules mean that the way to build a lead in a relatively close race is to rack up blowout wins in individual states. Clinton has a lot more opportunities to do that than Sanders does, and today is a prime example. She’s won 43 delegates tonight in South Carolina comepared to 14 for Sanders. Note that states like Georgia and Alabama are probably even better for Clinton than South Carolina. Clinton is likely to win more than 100 more delegates than Sanders on Tuesday; at that point her lead will basically be insurmountable.
Here’s a crazy crosstab: black voters over the age of 65: Clinton 96 percent, Sanders 3 percent.
South Carolina is clearly friendly territory for the Clinton campaign, but Nate Silver at 538 notes that the polling has started to look very strong for Clinton across the Super Tuesday states. Harry Enten, also of 538, argues that while a Clinton victory was expected, the enormous margin may spell doom for Sanders’ hope of capturing the nomination:
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, or it’ll become a monumental task to catch Clinton in the delegate count.
Matthew Yglesias at Vox looks ahead to Tuesday:
Democrats go to the polls again on Tuesday when Vermont, Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, and Alabama will all vote.
Sanders can easily afford to do poorly in that long list of Southern states, but given Democrats’ proportional allocation rules, he can’t afford to do as poorly in Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, and Arkansas as he did in South Carolina.
What’s more, given the overall demographic makeup of the Democratic Party, winning in places like Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, and Colorado won’t be enough. He needs to win Tennessee and Oklahoma to maintain a plausible path to the nomination. There hasn’t been much polling in those states yet, but the polls that have happened show Clinton in the lead.
Sanders said in a statement:
Let me be clear on one thing tonight. This campaign is just beginning. We won a decisive victory in New Hampshire. She won a decisive victory in South Carolina. Now it’s on to Super Tuesday. In just three days, Democrats in 11 states will pick 10 times more pledged delegates on one day than were selected in the four early states so far in this campaign. Our grassroots political revolution is growing state by state, and we won’t stop now.
When we come together, and don’t let people like Donald Trump try to divide us, we can create an economy that works for all of us and not just the top 1 percent.