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Clinton Wins Big In South Carolina On Way To ‘Super Tuesday’

By John Whitesides and Amanda Becker

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton crushed rival Bernie Sanders at the South Carolina primary on Saturday, propelling her into next week’s crucial “Super Tuesday” voting in 11 states on a wave of momentum.

The rout of Sanders solidified Clinton’s status as the strong front-runner to capture the party’s nomination for the Nov. 8 election in her quest to become America’s first woman president.

With nearly half of the votes counted in South Carolina, Clinton led Sanders by a 50-point margin, dramatically reversing her 28-point loss in the state to President Barack Obama during their bitter 2008 primary battle.

The former secretary of state’s victory decisively established her strength among black voters, a crucial Democratic constituency who make up more than half of the party’s primary electorate in South Carolina.

After the win, Clinton appeared to be looking ahead to a general-election matchup with Republican front-runner Donald Trump, the billionaire whose campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again” and has called for building a wall on the border with Mexico.

“Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again, America has never stopped being great,” she told cheering supporters in Columbia after the win. “Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers.”

The result was Clinton’s third victory in the first four Democratic contests, and raised more questions about whether Sanders, the democratic socialist U.S. senator from Vermont, will be able to expand his support beyond his base of predominantly white liberals.

“Today you sent a message,” Clinton said. “In America, when we stand together, there is no barrier too big to break.”

Sanders admitted defeat early in the night.

“Let me be clear on one thing tonight. 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.

NATIONAL RACE

The Democratic race now becomes a broader national contest. Eleven states, including six in the South with large minority populations where polls show Clinton with big leads, will vote on Super Tuesday and four more over the next weekend.

“Tomorrow, this campaign goes national,” Clinton said.

Clinton’s camp was hoping a big win in South Carolina, after more narrow victories in Iowa and Nevada and Sanders’ clear win in New Hampshire, will set her up for a big night on Tuesday, when about 875 delegates will be up for grabs, more than one-third of those needed to win the nomination.

Sanders, who has energized the party’s liberal wing and brought young people to the polls with his message of attacking income equality and reining in Wall Street, needs a breakthrough win in a key state in the next few weeks to keep his hopes alive.

“The door is closing fast for Bernie Sanders,” unaligned Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis said. “Movement candidates are about momentum and excitement, and losses sap that momentum. That’s his problem right now.”

Recognizing his steep odds in South Carolina, Sanders had spent most of the past week in states that will vote in March. As the results rolled in on Saturday, he was scheduled to hold a rally in the “Super Tuesday” state of Minnesota.

(Additional reporting by Alana Wise in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Photo: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks about the results of the South Carolina primary to supporters at a primary night party in Columbia, South Carolina, February 27, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill

South Carolina Polls: Clinton On Verge Of Landslide Over Sanders

Democratic voters in South Carolina are headed to the polls Saturday for the fourth showdown between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. And the very likely outcome: Clinton appears set to win a blowout victory — potentially even greater than Sanders’s own previous landslide in New Hampshire — fueled in part by a wide appeal to minority voters.

The poll from Emerson College has Clinton at 60 percent of likely voters, against 37 percent for Sanders, almost the exact opposite of the result in New Hampshire.

Within the poll, 71 percent of African-American respondents support Clinton, versus 25 percent for Sanders. But even among South Carolina’s white Democratic voters, the poll shows Clinton leading 57 percent to 40 percent.

The difference is even starker in the survey from Clemson University: Hillary with 64 percent, and Bernie at just 14 percent. Between these two polls, the the support for Clinton is quite similar, with a vast difference only in Sanders’s showing.

So far in the Democratic primary campaign, Clinton won the Iowa caucuses by only a razor-thin margin, and then faced a stark defeat from Sanders in New Hampshire. She came back to a narrow victory in the Nevada caucuses and now appears set to win the the fourth contest with such a sweeping victory that it could restore her momentum toward the nomination — and, maybe, cast doubts upon Sanders’s ability to reach out beyond his base of younger white voters and into the minority communities that fuel Democratic wins in the general elections.

Photo: Saffron Cafe and Bakery owner Ali Rahnamoon (R) kisses the hand of U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as she arrives to greet voters at his cafe in Charleston, South Carolina, February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Late Night Roundup: Trump’s Big Win Down South

In the wake of the South Carolina primary, two topics dominated the late night shows: Donald Trump’s massive victory — and the final, definitive end of “Jeb!”

Trevor Noah reviewed all of Donald Trump’s antics on the way to winning South Carolina: “In one week alone, Donald Trump fought with the Pope, blamed George Bush for 9/11, and then he said he would stop terrorism by shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. For real, this is what he said. And then finally, finally, last Saturday, South Carolina voters were like, ‘Stop! We’ve heard enough — you should be our president.”

Larry Wilmore bluntly diagnosed the reason why Jeb Bush failed so miserably as a presidential candidate: “Jeb’s blindness to his brother’s failure was the central problem in his campaign. He never realized his brother’s presidency was a disaster that Americans did not want to return to.”

Stephen Colbert said we’d have to get used to saying the words, “President Donald Trump” — but first he had to fight back a little nausea himself: “I think I just Trumped in my mouth a little.”

Conan O’Brien explained: “Analysts say that Donald Trump’s GOP rivals are running out of time to defeat him — that’s what they’re saying. This is not according to the electoral schedule — it’s according to the Book of Revelation.”

Seth Meyers asked why it is that Trump keeps changing his positions on issues like war and health care, but Republican voters keep flocking to him? The answer: He keeps saying racist and hateful stuff.

James Corden mourned the loss of Jeb Bush from the presidential race. “George W. Bush was a little confused why Jeb quit because he was losing — because as far as George W. Bush is concerned, you still become president even when you don’t get the most votes.”

Samantha Bee looked at the idea that John Kasich is somehow the “moderate” Republican candidate.

Newt Gingrich: Donald Trump Is “The Candidate That ‘Fox & Friends’ Invented”

Newt Gingrich unloaded at the Fox News morning chat show on Monday, for the role that TV hosts have played in giving Donald Trump an easy platform for his candidacy. The Fox hosts actually mounted a decent rebuttal, illustrating how other campaigns have failed to exploit the media as effectively as The Donald has.

Fox & Friends Co-host Steve Doocy asked Newt what the Republican establishment is doing now about the rise of Trump: “This is their nightmare scenario. What are they trying to do?

“Oh, I think they live in a fantasyland right now,” Gingrich said bluntly. “Donald Trump is tapping into something in the country that’s real. And if you take Trump’s vote, and Cruz’s vote, and Carson’s vote, the three outsiders, they are once again at about 62 percent in South Carolina. And they have been consistently above 60 percent everywhere in the country, if you pool together all of the insurgents. And there’s a message there: People believe the country’s decaying; they believe Washington is the heart of that decay. They want somebody who’s gonna kick over the table and change Washington. That’s why Cruz has done so well, and it’s why Trump has done so well.

Co-host Brian Kilmeade chimed in. “What’s interesting is, I remember Mitt Romney, one of his great advantages was money, and that’s why a lot of you guys couldn’t keep up,” Kilmeade said, which got Newt laughing. He continued: “This time, the billionaire is spending the least amount of money, and running away with this thing.”

“Wow,” Newt said, in a suddenly stern tone, “But that’s because of you guys.”

“What?”

“Look, that’s because of you guys,” Newt explained. “Donald Trump gets up in the morning, tweets to the entire planet at no cost, picks up the phone, calls you, has a great conversation for about eight minutes — which would’ve cost him a ton in commercial money. And meanwhile his opponents are all out there trying to raise the money to run an ad — nobody believes the ad.”

Kilmeade then felt the need to defend himself from the charge of building up Trump — and indeed, he offered a good critique of how other candidates simply didn’t embrace the free media strategy in the same way as Trump.

“Well I mean, people make decisions. Newt, people make decisions,” Kilmeade said. “Mitt Romney made a decision — for three months he wouldn’t do us at all. I mean, people decide — for a while, Jeb Bush wouldn’t hop on any television at all.

“Oh, I know,” Gingrich responded.

“Hillary Clinton didn’t do anything in the beginning. Donald Trump from day one made himself available to big and small — it paid off.”

Doocy added: “Plus, he’s invented scenarios where suddenly he’s got all this free media. You know, that pope thing at the end of the week? Who wasn’t talking about that?

Next got accusatory again: “Look, you could say that Trump is the candidate Fox & Friends invented. He was on your show I think more than any other show.”

“Every Monday,” Doocy helpfully interjected, referring to The Donald’s old regular slot on the show, which he had for several years before ever launching his campaign.

Newt continued: “—It was always a happy, positive conversation. He just kept going around the country — and this is one of his great advantages: He loves what he’s currently doing. And he is having a ball. That gives him more energy, and the fact that he can get on his plane to go back home, to get up in the morning, get back on his plane — a pretty comfortable life for a presidential candidate.”

“You know what?” Doocy said, bringing the segment to a close. “I want to be a billionaire, too — just saying.”