The Associated Press has declared Hillary Clinton the winner of the South Carolina Democratic primary. The former Secretary of State took more than 70 percent of the vote — possibly exceeding the margin by which Democratic rival Bernie Sanders bested Clinton in New Hampshire.
South Carolina has 53 Democratic delegates up for grabs in its nominating contest. Less than two hours after the polls closed on Saturday, the AP was reporting that Clinton had earned 37 delegates, while Sanders had 12. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton claimed 73.5 percent of the vote, compared to Sanders's 25.9 percent.
Clinton was expected to dominate in the state where nearly 60 percent of registered Democrats are African-American, according to ABC News. That demographic turned out in record numbers in the Palmetto state in 2008, supporting then-Senator Barack Obama, and effectively signaling the beginning of the end of Clinton's bid for the White House that year.
The AP reports that early exit polls indicated eight in 10 black voters cast their ballot for Clinton, “putting her in a strong position as the race barrels toward Super Tuesday’s crucial contests.” Women and voters age 30 and older also overwhelmingly supported Clinton in today’s primary, those exit polls revealed.
“The Democratic voters of South Carolina have rendered a significant verdict," said Rep. Jim Clyburne in his remarks introducing Clinton at her victory rally in Columbia. “We, tonight, have started Hillary Clinton on her way to the White House.”
Clinton took the stage to raucous applause while Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" boomed over the speakers, and promptly highlighted the historic nature of her campaign, frequently discussing the "barriers" that having a woman in the White House would help to break down. (Watch Clinton's speech in South Carolina below.)
“Together we can break down all the barriers holding our families and our country back,” Clinton said. “We can build ladders of opportunity and empowerment so every single American can have that chance to live up to his or her God-given potential. And then, and only then, can America live up to its potential, too.”
Clinton congratulated Vermont Sen. Sanders, but then turned her attention to the Republican candidates, who spent much of the day insulting one another in various states slated to hold Super Tuesday contests.
“Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again,” Clinton said, alluding to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. “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. We need to show, by everything we do, that we really are in this together.”
While Clinton's speech focused on the virtue of working together and breaking down barriers, her voice seemed to crack when she discussed the time she's spent campaigning in South Carolina with the mothers of several young people of color who have died at the hands of police or armed vigilantes around the country. While the women did not take the stage with Clinton, she pointedly mentioned each woman's name and how her child died:
"Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, shot and killed in Florida just for walking down the street. Lucy McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, shot and killed by someone who thought he was playing his music too loud in his car. Maria Hamilton, mother of Donte, shot and killed by police in Milwaukee. Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, choked to death after being stopped for selling loose cigarettes on the street. And Geneva Veal- Reed, mother of Sandra Bland, who died in police custody in Texas.
“They all lost children, which is almost unimaginable. Yet they have not been broken or embittered. Instead, they have channeled their sorrow into a strategy and their mourning into a movement.”
Within minutes of the race being called in her favor, Clinton sent out a tweet, thanking South Carolina, and the “volunteers at the heart of our campaign.”
To South Carolina, to the volunteers at the heart of our campaign, to the supporters who power it: thank you. -H pic.twitter.com/JFTUZ2yBxf
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 28, 2016
Ten minutes later, Clinton’s campaign shared a photo of enthusiastic supporters cheering at Clinton’s victory rally in Columbia, simply proclaiming “We did it, South Carolina.”
We did it, South Carolina. pic.twitter.com/7qGDnavcID
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 28, 2016
Sanders reportedly left the state before the polls closed at 7 p.m. local time, traveling to Texas to give a speech to some 10,000 supporters in Austin, according to the AP. Texas is one of the several states that will hold nominating contests on Super Tuesday, and has the most delegates up for grabs, Sanders explained to the crowd.
He conceded victory in South Carolina to the Clinton campaign shortly after the polls closed in the state, issuing a statement via email, according to Bustle.
— Alex Hanson (@theAlexHanson) February 28, 2016
By Saturday evening, Sanders had arrived in Minnesota, taking the stage at a rally in Rochester shortly after 8 p.m. local time. The senator from Vermont did not mention the South Carolina, though his lengthy speech did touch on many of the points of his progressive campaign that have mobilized historic support across the country. He repeated his pledge to nominate justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Citizens United, and enact what he describes as a "Medicare-for-all, single-payer" health care system. The enthusiastic crowd cheered wildly when Sanders reiterated his pledge to provide tuition-free public higher education, rebuilding what he called America's "crumbling infastructure," and "bringing justice back to the broken criminal justice system."
Sanders highlighted key differences between himself and Clinton, noting that his campaign decided "after about one second of consideration," that it would not create a super PAC to secure funding, as most major candidates do. Instead, Sanders said he was proud to report that more than 4 million individual donations were powering his campaign — "more than any candidate in the history of this country up to this point." When he asked attendees whether they knew the average amount of that donation, a chorus of people shouted "$27!"
“With such a brilliant audience here, there’s no way we’re going to lose Minnesota,” Sanders said with a chuckle. “I can see that. You are just too smart. I can see that.”
Sanders also highlighted that he was one of a select few Senators to vote against the invasion of Iraq in 2002.
“I listened to those speeches [of then-president George W. Bush, vice president Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld] very, very thoroughly,” Sanders said of his 2002 vote. “I concluded that they were lying, and I voted against the war in Iraq.”
“Secretary Clinton heard the same evidence, listened to the same speeches, she voted for the war,” Sanders continued, as the crowd booed audibly.
The self-described Democratic socialist had pointed critique for his Republican opponents, critiquing the conservative party's talking points of "family values."
“Our family values are a little, teeny bit different than Republican family values,” Sanders said of his wife and their four children. “And I want everybody here to understand what Republican family values mean.” He continued:
“What they mean is that no woman in this room, in this state, in this country, should have the right to control her own body. I disagree.
“What they mean is that the federal government should defund Planned Parenthood. I believe we should expand funding for Planned Parenthood.
“What they mean about family values is that our gay brothers and sisters should not have the right to be married. I disagree.”
But Sanders saved his most biting criticism for GOP frontrunner Trump, blasting the businessman's incendiary rhetoric about Mexicans, Muslims, women, and African-Americans. The polarizing, xenophobic comments Trump has established as hallmark of his campaign, are simply not reflective of American values, Sanders said. After saying "it would make me so happy to have the opportunity to run against Donald Trump," Sanders went on a roll:
“We will, together, defeat Donald Trump. Because the American people do not want a president who insults Mexicans, Muslims, women, African-Americans, veterans, and basically anyone who does not look and sound like Donald Trump.
“We will win because togetherness, bringing people together, trumps divisiveness. We will defeat Trump because community trumps selfishness. And most significantly, and the deepest point that I can make, we will defeat Trump because love trumps hatred.”
Hillary Clinton's victory speech from Columbia, South Carolina:
Bernie Sanders's speech from Rochester, Minn., can be viewed in full on CSPAN.