Hillary Clinton didn't just win South Carolina last night, she literally wiped Bernie Sanders off the map, winning every single county and winning by a eye-popping, clean-his-clock devastating margin of nearly 50 points. She won the black vote by more than 70 points, and she won the white vote too. She won men, women, rich, poor, young, old, everybody.
In a statement, Bernie Sanders equated his sizable 20-point victory in New Hampshire with Clinton's absolute tsunami in South Carolina. Not only did Clinton beat Sanders in South Carolina by more than twice the margin he beat her in New Hampshire, South Carolina is far more important in the Democratic primary for two reasons: first, South Carolina awards 53 delegates to the convention, New Hampshire only 22. Sanders won a 6 pledged delegate lead in NH; by contrast, Clinton won a 25 pledged delegate lead in SC. In other words, Sanders could have won all the delegates in New Hampshire and he'd still be behind when the two were put together.
But more than that, South Carolina was the first primary test of the support of the most loyal Democratic constituency bar none: black voters. Among them, Sanders was routed 85-14, an unheard of 71-point margin. Sanders lost the African American vote in Nevada by more than 50 points as well, and we thought that was bad. His South Carolina rout among black voters was comparable to the margins Republicans lose the black vote to Democrats in general presidential elections.
Certain Sanders backers have callously suggested that because South Carolina tends to be a red state in the general election, Hillary Clinton's sweeping victory there in the primary doesn't really matter. Campaign spin and the breathtakingly offensive, racist nature of such comments aside, what South Carolina really demonstrated is where the most reliable Democratic constituency - without whom it is impossible for a Democrat to win the White House - tips the scale.
As I pointed out just days ago, Hillary Clinton is beginning to lock up not just the black vote but the broad coalition of people of color as polls are showing her leading the Hispanic vote by a 2:1 margin or better over Sanders.
The margin of Clinton's victory in South Carolina, along with her broad advantage among and deep connection to people of color, not only wipes out any momentum Sanders may have gotten from New Hampshire's overwhelmingly white electorate, it puts winds on her sail that is all but certain to put Sanders away come Tuesday. According to analysis by Nate Cohn at the New York Times, Clinton's overwhelming margin in South Carolina (and polls) suggests a sizable sweep in the Super Tuesday states of Alabama, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia.
But it's not just states in the south with a greater-than-average representation of black voters. The Real Clear Politics average of polls show that Hillary Clinton leads in most states and heavily in the vast majority of delegate rich primaries.
As much as Sanders would like reality to go away (in more ways than one), Clinton's South Carolina blowout has not only confirmed her dominance among non-white Democratic primary voters, it has given her critical momentum just in time for Super Tuesday, when another big chunk of diverse voters come out to vote and caucus. This means that not only will Sanders be unable to close the gap in delegates - even if you count only pledged delegates - he will in all likelihood be further behind. No doubt it's one reason his campaign is already talking about hanging on for dear life through June, and why Sanders himself went to Minnesota and suggested that he lost South Carolina because black voters are just too stupid.
Let me put it this way. The broad, diverse coalition that makes up the Obama coalition has Bernie's number. No matter how many big rallies Sanders has, people are increasingly finding him out of touch with reality who comically answers every "how" about his plans with how scared Mitch McConnell will be to see a million Berniebros congregating outside his window. People are quickly realizing that not all of our problems can be solved by exacting revenge on Wall Street, by ripping apart the progress we made on health care and starting over with another impossible debate on it, or by sternly assailing the integrity of your opponent.
We're interested in solutions, not bravado. We want progress, not petulance. We want our standard bearer to loudly and proudly tout President Obama's accomplishments and build on those pillars, not someone who belittles those accomplishments as small potato.
Hillary Clinton made this case in Nevada, and more effectively in South Carolina. She masterfully painted Sanders as a one-issue protest candidate. That the truth was on her side didn't hurt. She positioned herself as someone who has earned President Obama's trust and has the record and ability to build on the transformative changes he's begun, and Sanders as a rebel without a cause - or at least, any realistic plans.
This is the endgame going into Super Tuesday, the rest of the contests in March and beyond. Bernie Sanders lost critical momentum just when he needed it, and the calendar is looking brutal for him - mostly because buoyed by large, young, white crowds filling up his rallies, Bernie never did learn to pay attention to the broad base of the Democratic party, the people the Democratic nominee will need to most rely on to get them to the White House.
Too bad for him.