Obama's Big Night
Senator Obama's victory in South Carolina was truly stunning. In a contested three-way race, he not only won a plurality, he won a majority- with room to spare. The polls showed him winning by double digits, and he doubled that! Senator Clinton spent part of the past week campaigning elsewhere, and definitely telegraphed that she was trying to cut her losses, but it was still quite a loss to cut. Interestingly, given all the racial tensions of the past couple weeks, African American voters actually saved Senator Clinton from finishing third. Senator Edwards beat her, among white voters.
The big question is, of course, whether this will change the fundamental dynamic of the race. As I've previously documented, Senator Clinton is well ahead in the most recent polls of Tsunami Tuesday races. Before South Carolina, she led by 40 in Arkansas, more than 30 in Massachusetts, 20 or more in Arizona and Oklahoma, more than 15 in New Jersey and New York, more than 10 in California and Connecticut, and she also held a small lead in Alabama. Senator Obama led only in Georgia, by 3, although it was presumed he would win huge in Illinois.
Saturday poll results, that came out before the South Carolina blow-out, also gave Senator Clinton double-digit leads in Missouri and Tennessee, while updated results showed Senator Obama indeed winning huge in Illinois. So, Senator Obama needs to turn the race upside down. The media pile-on helps, but whether the astonishing South Carolina numbers can finish the job remains to be seen. By the middle of next week, poll results will have fully incorporated any South Carolina bounce, and that's when we'll know the true state of the race. I'm guessing that whatever does or doesn't happen in Florida will have no effect.
So, all eyes are now focused on February 5. Should Senator Clinton's numbers hold up, inevitability will be back, and this time with justification. Proportional distribution of delegates means she won't have the nomination locked up, but her momentum will be hard, if not impossible, to stop. The question is not whether Senator Obama's win in South Carolina was big enough, it's whether South Carolina can change voting patterns across the country. It will be interesting to find out. For on this night, South Carolina Democrats gave Senator Obama everything he could have asked for- and a whole lot more.