Hillary Clinton cruised Saturday to an easy victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary, taking back the momentum from Bernie Sanders heading into Super Tuesday – though Sanders will keep his foothold in the race as he continues to rack up delegates and contributions.
The Democratic front-runner won largely on the strength of her support from black voters – her so-called “firewall” that, in the end, held up.
Exit polls showed nearly nine in 10 black voters supported Clinton in the Palmetto State, and she hopes that bloc will carry her over her rival as the race heads deeper into the South. With a Nevada and South Carolina win now under her belt, Clinton is working hard to shake off her big loss to Sanders earlier this month in New Hampshire.
“Tomorrow, this campaign goes national,” Clinton declared at her victory rally in Columbia, S.C.
As cheering supporters shouted “Hillary! Hillary!” she said: “We are going to compete for every vote in every state. We’re not taking anything, and we’re not taking anyone, for granted.”
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton was beating Sanders in South Carolina by a resounding 73-26 percent.
But the Vermont senator, anticipating a loss Saturday, already had started campaigning in Super Tuesday states, and his campaign still predicts he’ll split the vote with Clinton next week.
“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,” Sanders said in a statement. “Our grassroots political revolution is growing state by state, and we won't stop now.”
Clinton visited Alabama earlier Saturday but by the evening was back in South Carolina for her victory party.
Sanders, though, spent Saturday speaking to about 10,000 people at a Formula One racetrack near Austin, Texas, skipping South Carolina. He then was heading to Minnesota.
Roughly a dozen states hold contests on Tuesday, with delegates on the line in 11 of them. In South Carolina and other states, delegates are awarded proportionally, so Sanders is able to add to his delegate total even when he loses.
As on the Republican side, Texas will be considered a huge prize on Tuesday, but Sanders also is looking to potentially more friendly territory in the Midwest and Northeast, including his home state.
Clinton is looking to win by large margins in Southern states, seven of which vote this coming Tuesday.
At one point in her victory speech Saturday, Clinton seemed to be trying to look past Sanders, rhetorically taking on Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
“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.”
Meanwhile, her victory in South Carolina had a redemptive quality for Clinton, who suffered a significant loss there to Barack Obama in 2008. Her husband, President Bill Clinton, was viewed by some as questioning the legitimacy of the black presidential contender -- Obama. This time, black leaders and officials largely gravitated toward her campaign ahead of the vote, though Sanders was able to pick up some support from influential black leaders.
Earlier in the day, the Vermont senator’s wife, Jane Sanders, said that her husband’s campaign is looking to Super Tuesday when "I think we'll split the vote."
She also said: "It's a 50-state election, and we're feeling very confident, actually."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.