COLUMBIA, S.C. — Hillary Clinton has won the South Carolina Democratic primary by a massive margin, proving the strength of her diverse Southern firewall and restoring her position as the undisputed front-runner in her party’s race for the White House heading into Super Tuesday.
“We’ve now gone through four early states and I want to congratulate Sen. Sanders on running a great race,” Clinton said to her supporters. “Tomorrow, this campaign goes national.”
She went on: “We are going to compete for every vote in every state. We are not taking anything and we’re not taking anyone for granted.”
The victory is her strongest yet in the 2016 primary contest. She narrowly won the Iowa caucuses and was trounced by Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary. Clinton won the Nevada caucuses decisively earlier this week by five percentage points.
Clinton’s win Saturday night was fueled by strong support from minority voters, giving her campaign a jolt heading into Super Tuesday when 11 states hold Democratic primaries or caucuses. She hopes to use those results to run up the delegate count against Sanders.
During her victory speech, she encouraged Americans to confront persistent racism.
“We also have to face the reality of systemic racism that, more than half a century after Rosa Parks sat, and Dr. King marched and John Lewis bled, still plays a significant role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind,” she told supporters.
Clinton mentioned the five mothers by name that she recognized at CNN’s Democratic town hall Tuesday — five African-American women who have lost their children to senseless gun violence or at the hands of police.
“They have not been broken or embittered, instead they have channeled their sorrow into strategy, and their mourning into a movement. And they are reminding us of something deep and powerful in the American spirit,” Clinton said.
She also took a clear swipe at Donald Trump, who is dominating the Republican presidential race with his campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again.”
“Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again. America has never stopped being great,” she said. “But we do need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers.”
For his part, Sanders is looking ahead from South Carolina and didn’t spend the day in the state. He was in Texas earlier Saturday and also held an event in Minnesota.
As he arrived in Rochester, Minnesota, he said “sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
“Tonight we lost. I congratulate Secretary Clinton on her very strong victory. Tuesday, over 800 delegates are at stake and we intend to win many, many of them.”
Earlier he released a written statement congratulating Clinton, but saying the race isn’t over.
“Let me be clear on one thing tonight: This campaign is just beginning,” Sanders said. “Our grassroots political revolution is growing state by state, and we won’t stop now.”
Clinton’s wide margin in South Carolina could validate her claims that her base of minority voters ultimately beat Sanders’ more homogeneous support. It also represents a moment of personal redemption for the candidate and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, after her 2008 defeat in South Carolina to Barack Obama in a tough battle from which her campaign never recovered.
Both Clintons spent many of the days running up to the primary crisscrossing the state, and the former secretary of state picked up key endorsements, including that of U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina.
Sanders spent less time in the state than Clinton, but made a late run south on Friday, taking aim at her positions on trade and relationship with Wall Street. He also highlighted his opposition to the death penalty, saying its use had been responsible for the taking of innocent lives, including those of people of color.
“We have so much ugliness and so much violence that I don’t think the government should be involved in that violence and killing people,” Sanders said.
While he never expected to win South Carolina, Sanders has been able to use the state to test his message towards African-American voters especially that could help him in later states.
Even before the race was called Saturday, the Sanders camp was pointing out that the Vermont senator was little known in South Carolina before the primary and had already cut into Clinton’s wide polling leads.
“There is only one candidate that has to win South Carolina and it is not Bernie Sanders,” said South Carolina state Rep. Justin Bamberg, a Sanders supporter, on Saturday.