After a rocky few weeks, Hillary Clinton is finally on a path to victory.
Clinton heads into Super Tuesday leading in most of the 11 states, several of which have large minority populations. In a preview of her strength, African-Americans voted for her in staggering numbers Saturday in her landslide win in South Carolina.
In addition to the bragging rights of likely state wins Tuesday, she’s expected to begin to rack up many of the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination for president. If she wins a majority of the delegate Tuesday, it will become ever more difficult for Bernie Sanders to catch her.
“She’s been first lady, a senator, secretary of state,” said Marna Lee, 74, a retired medical records consultant from Lawrenceville, Georgia, which is among the states voting Tuesday. “She's ready.”
Before South Carolina, Clinton had a one-delegate lead over Sanders, though she had a massive adavantage among superdelegates, Democratic leaders who can back any candidate regardless of how their states vote.
Clinton and Sanders have been hopscotching in and out of Super Tuesday states in recent days as they prepared for the campaign to sift from one state at a time to multi-state. Democrats hold caucuses or primaries in 11 states – Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia – plus American Samoa.
“Tomorrow this campaign goes national,” Clinton told supporters Saturday night. “We are not taking anything, and we are not taking anyone, for granted.”
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Clinton initially stressed February’s four early states. After a virtual tie in Iowa and resounding defeat in New Hampshire, she began looking past Nevada and South Carolina and focusing on March. Her aides coined the phrase “March Matters” on social media.
Her campaign manager Robby Mook assured supporters in an email that the four February states represent just four percent of the delegates needed to secure the nomination while the 28 states that have primaries or caucus in March will award 56 percent.
From a mathematic perspective, it’s clear why March is so important: voters in large states with large delegate allotments will cast their ballots
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook
Clinton’s lopsided win in South Carolina gives her a boost going into the next phase of the race and reaffirmed her place as the frontrunner.
Still, Sanders has vowed to fight all the way to the Democratic convention in July.
“On Tuesday we're going to have over 800 delegates being selected. And I think we're going to win a very good share of those delegates,” Sanders said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation program. “I think you've got major states coming up. And I think the important point is that people throughout this country are resonating to our message.”
Sanders receives some delegates even if he loses. In South Carolina, for example, Clinton received 39 delegates and Sanders picked up 14.
The self-described democratic socialist who talks about launching a “political revolution,” has successfully drawn on anger building in the country by those fed up with the so-called billionaire class, particularly young and rural white voters who have given him him millions in small donations. In South Carolina, he won voters under the age of 25, though Clinton did well with nearly every other demographic.
My mind was made up when Secretary Clinton said she was going to run. I didn't really care who else said they were going to run or not
South Carolina retiree Dona Davis, 70
Sanders has attracted enormous crowds in recent days – nearly 9,000 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which votes Tuesday, and 7,000 in Kansas City, Missouri, which votes March 15. On Sunday, he scored a high-profile endorsement from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who also resigned as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee after bickering with party leaders over what she called a light debate schedule. Critics charged that the party set up a sparse debate schedule to help shelter Clinton from risk.’
Sanders is still expected to come up short in most Super Tuesday states in part because of Clinton’s broad support among African Americans.
In South Carolina, Clinton won African Americans 86-14, who made up 61 percent of the electorate, a larger share than when Obama won, exit polls show. That puts her in a strong position to win in Alabama and Georgia, where African Americans make up more than half of Democratic primary voters, and Tennessee and Virginia, which have smaller but still large populations of black voters.
Tangela Smalls, 44, an administrator at Trident Technical College in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, said she noticed a different Clinton this time around. “She learned that she can’t ride her husband’s coattails and belittle the Obama voter,” she said. “This is a genuine, more humble, more-connected Hillary. This Hillary didn’t take us for granted.”
Clinton also is expected to do well in Arkansas, where her husband was governor and remains popular. She beat Obama there by more than 40 points in 2008.
Sanders hopes to remain competitive in the South, while focusing most attention on states in the Midwest and Northeast.
He is expected to do well in his home state of Vermont. He’s running slightly ahead with Clinton in nearby Massachusetts and within a few points of her in Oklahoma. He also hopes to do well in Colorado and Minnesota, the two states that hold caucuses Tuesday.
Clinton and Sanders continue to fight over who won the Hispanic vote in Nevada. Entrance polls indicate that Sanders won the Hispanic vote by 8 percentage points, but Clinton’s campaign angrily dispute those numbers. Either way, it’s clear Sanders has made up ground among Hispanic voters.
Clinton is leading in Texas, where Hispanics make up 20 percent of the electorate, but running close in Colorado, which has a similarly diverse population.
Another six states vote the following week. In the midst of that, Clinton and Sanders debate again, this time March 6 in Flint, Michigan.
Cherelle Wilson, 29, an accounting clerk with Williamsburg County, South Carolina, said she didn’t pay much attention to Sanders. “He's been making a big pitch, but I've always admired her,” she said. “I don't feel like I needed to look anywhere else.”
Lesley Clark and William Douglas contributed.