COLUMBIA, S.C. - Hillary Clinton won a commanding victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina Democratic primary Saturday with the help of an overwhelming vote by African-Americans, gaining the lift she sought going into the delegate-rich Super Tuesday primaries.
With nearly all votes counted late last night, Clinton was beating Sanders by 73.5 percent to 26 percent, or about 271,000 votes to 96,000. She took the podium at a convention center here to the chants of “Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!”
“Tomorrow, this campaign goes national!” she said in a rousing call to take on Super Tuesday.
She called for Americans to embrace love and togetherness — a swipe at Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration.
In a jab at Sanders’ campaign for income equality, Clinton said America isn’t a “single-issue country.”
“Despite what you hear, we don’t have to make America great again,” she said referring to Trump’s campaign theme. “America never stopped being great.
“But we do need to make America whole again,” she said. “Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers. We need to show by everything that we do that we really are in this together.”
Sanders congratulated Clinton in a statement, adding: “Let me be clear on one thing tonight: This campaign is just beginning. Now it’s on to Super Tuesday . . . Our grass roots political revolution is growing state by state, and we won’t stop.”
Later, in a speech to supporters in Rochester, Minnesota, Sanders said: “What this campaign is about is not just electing a president — yeah, that’s pretty important. But there is something that’s more important. It is about transforming America. It is about thinking big and the kind of country we want to become.
“It is something the media will not talk about . . . that there has been a massive redistribution of wealth. The problem is, the redistribution has gone in the wrong direction.”
The win gives Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, a strong primary victory to match Sanders’ decisive win in the New Hampshire primary.
Clinton also has won in Iowa and Nevada. But her margins were not overwhelming, particularly for a candidate who a year ago was expected win the Democratic nomination with little opposition.
In 2008, Clinton lost to Barack Obama by nearly 30 percentage points in South Carolina.
“This is significant for Secretary Clinton,” said Jamie Harrison, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. “I’m told 61 percent of the electorate was African-American, and she was able to galvanize that. It also gives her a lot of momentum going into” Super Tuesday, “with states with a similar demographic.”
CNN reported that its exit polls showed Clinton won the African-American vote, 84-16 percent. Sanders won among whites by 58 to 42 percent.
“The Clintons have worked the African-American community here for 30 years,” said Donald L. Fowler, a longtime South Carolina Democratic leader and chairman of the Democratic National Committee when Bill Clinton was president.
“Most African-Americans never heard of Bernie Sanders before six months ago,” Fowler said in an interview. “The Clintons just had a light-years advantage.”
Fifty-three Democratic delegates were at stake in South Carolina on Saturday. They will be apportioned according to the share of the vote that Clinton and Sanders won. Clinton had 502 delegates to 70 for Sanders in advance of the primary.
Most of the approximately 865 delegates that will be at stake in the March 1 Super Tuesday primaries will be selected in Southern states with large African-American populations.
Super Tuesday primaries include those in Alabama; Arkansas, where Clinton was active as first lady to Gov. Bill Clinton; Georgia; Texas; Virginia; Tennessee; and Vermont, where Sanders has been a longtime U.S. senator and served as mayor of Burlington.
After Super Tuesday, the race goes to the Midwest and Northeast, where Sanders has been campaigning hard.
The Democratic nominee will need to win 2,383 delegates at the national convention in Philadelphia in July.