Hillary Clinton has won the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, handing her a welcome boost over Bernie Sanders before the high-stakes Super Tuesday contest.
“To South Carolina, to the volunteers at the heart of our campaign, to the supporters who power it: thank you,” Mrs Clinton tweeted as CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all called the vote in her favour at the close of polls on Saturday.
“Tomorrow this campaign goes national,” Mrs Clinton said to a loud roar as she thanked supporters in Columbia, South Carolina.
“We are going to compete for every vote in every state. We are not taking anything, and we are not taking anyone, for granted.”
Mrs Clinton also looked beyond her battle with Mr Sanders, tweaking the man many now see as the likely Republican nominee: Donald Trump, whose campaign slogan is “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,” she added, laying out an argument against the divisive rhetoric favored by Mr Trump, who has antagonized immigrants, Muslims and campaign rivals.
“Instead of building walls, we need to tear down barriers,” Mrs Clinton said.
Sanders not out, but loss a sizeable blow
Mr Sanders immediately congratulated his rival, while vowing to fight on for the party’s presidential nomination.
“This campaign is just beginning,” he said in a statement.
“We won a decisive victory in New Hampshire. She won a decisive victory in South Carolina. Now it’s on to Super Tuesday.”
Among Democrats, Mrs Clinton leads in the national delegate count at this early stage of the nomination race, having already won two of the previous three contests — in Iowa, narrowly, and Nevada.
For the Sanders campaign, it was a devastating result in the South.
The 50-point loss will not just prey on Mr Sander’s mind, but it will hurt his staffers as well.
A dejected campaign volunteer told the ABC that she did not have the energy to go to her own campaign’s election night party.
She had spent the day making call after call to people who did not want to vote for Mr Sanders.
But Mr Sanders is not out. He has taken a sizeable blow that will have stunned him, but he is expected to keep swinging.
By comparison, Mrs Clinton’s win will inject extra energy into her campaign, which is vital going into this week when so many delegates are up for grabs.
Almost half a dozen states in the South will vote this week, with the Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia primaries on Super Tuesday and Louisiana voting next weekend.