Obama crushes Clinton as two themes emerge in South Carolina

The first and the most important theme is that of the “Electable Democrat”. Prior to Iowa, the political world wondered if Barack Obama was really politically viable as a candidate. His win in Iowa changed that, at least to the degree than he was taken much more seriously. NH slowed it down a touch, but South Carolina and the huge defeat, in fact, the rout of Hillary Clinton, makes him a very viable, and, in fact, electable candidate.

Now many are going to try to write off SC as an outlier because of its huge black voting population. 50% of the voters there are black. But as it turns out, it appears Obama, while getting only 25% of the total white vote, did very well among college educated whites, whites under 30 and white men. In fact, he split the white male vote with Clinton.

Clinton won the white female vote but Edwards took the white vote 39% to Clinton’s 36%.

What was just as interesting was the size of the black vote for Obama. 81% of blacks went for Obama, while Clinton got Republican numbers – 17%.

Two other significant numbers – Obama took 58% of those who identified themselves as Democrats (that’s a first for him) and he also won among independents, again. And something which should be further noted, he won against the black political establishment there in SC which, for the most part, supported Clinton.

On issues, for those who claimed the economy as the top issue Obama was the top choice, 51% to 30% (which is a little surprising).

Concerning the theme of an “electable Democrat”, some exit poll results set it up. Asked if the US was ready for a black president, 83% said yes. If ready for a woman president, 76% said yes. You can argue all day long as to whether a name was associated with the race or gender in the appropriate question, but I’d suspect they were.

A more revealing question was “if Hillary Clinton won the nomination whether you voted for her or not, would that be okay with you?” 77% said yes, 23% said no. Same question with Obama – 83% yes, 17% no. Check out those percentages above again. They’re a dead match.

And, even more damaging, 20% of blacks said they would be dissatisfied if Hillary Clinton emerges as the nominee.

To the message of change and unity, 53% listed change as their top priority, and of those 75% voted for Obama. Of those who saw unity as a priority (i.e. unifying the country) 55% voted for Obama.

Finally, as to who voters in SC thought could beat the Republicans in November, 47% said Obama, 36% said Clinton.

So Obama emerges as a strong, viable and very electable candidate from the hammering he gave Hillary Clinton.

The second theme seemed to be Bill Clinton. He was the topic all across the cable news spectrum and, as one pundit noted, the Clinton campaign lost ugly tonight and he was one of the main reasons.

Among those who decided in the last 3 days, only 21% went for Clinton while Obama and Edwards got about 40% each. 68% of the voters thought the Clinton campaign had been unfair to Obama. And, as Lester Holt of MSNBC said, it became clear as he spoke with blacks around the state that they felt Bill Clinton had been ‘disrespectful’ to Obama.

Tim Russert opined that Bill and Hillary Clinton are clearly running as a team and that Bill got as much scrutiny as either Hillary or Obama.

Howard Fineman of Newsweek said that Bill Clinton had been “repudiated” as a political weapon and that the Obama campaign had concluded it didn’t have to make an effort to get out of the corner that the Clintons were trying to push them into (er, advice to Obama – do not underestimate the Clintons).

Fineman also said that in his inquiries to the Clinton campaign as to whether they were going to try to rein in Bill, the answer was “no”. In fact, what they said was he was sort of a “free agent” doing his own thing (or said another way, they have no control over him) and that they kind of liked what he’d been doing (surely said through gritted teeth).

The question is will he tone down the rhetoric (when he showed up in SC, Hillary’s numbers started trending down) or damn the torpedoes and continue full speed ahead?

Last, but not least, Fineman also related that the Edwards campaign has said it isn’t going to drop out. He reported that the Edwards camp had been in contact with the Obama campaign to cut some sort of a deal, but at this time, the Obama campaign has rejected anything of that sort. And, apparently, the Clinton campaign, who was trying to make it a two person race after NH, is now happy to have John Edwards around.

All in all an interesting night, over quickly, but with possibly far-reaching consequences. It will be very interesting to see how Super Tuesday goes, won’t it?


First published at QandO.

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