On Saturday night, Democrats in the state of South Carolina sent a definitive message: they want Hillary Clinton to be their party's nominee, and by wide margins. Literally seconds after polls closed in the state, news outlets everywhere started calling the race for her. And some of the numbers she notched en route to the win are simply absurd ― for example, Hillary Clinton won more black voters than President Obama did in the 2008 South Carolina primary, and that's a level of support that spells doom for the candidacy of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.
As the early exit poll numbers trickled in throughout the 6:00 p.m. ET hour, it was already very clear that Sanders was in for a rough night. Young voters ― to this point, the crucial lifeblood of his campaign ― turned out in lower numbers than they did in anything of the previous three contests. And the schism between his levels of support from white and non-white voters has been a well-documented problem for months.
But still, this was hard to predict. Black voters in South Carolina ended up favoring Clinton by a staggering 68 points, a margin that's a hugely bad omen for Sanders heading into Super Tuesday. If you're running to be the Democratic nominee, and you lose that badly with black voters... it's never going to happen. It's just that simple.
The headline-grabbing stat is undeniably the Obama comparison. Back in 2008, in a devastating blow to Clinton's chances of winning the nomination, then-Senator Obama similarly crushed her among black South Carolinians, outdoing her by 59 points.
There are some important pieces of context to help explain this startling outcome, however. Namely, it wasn't just a two-horse race back in 2008 ― John Edwards was still in the race, months before his high-profile sex scandal would implode his political career. Edwards wasn't a South Carolina native, but he was from North Carolina, and proximity counts for something; he snagged 17 percent of the vote, although he only got two percent of the black vote.
Furthermore, both Obama and Clinton have been historically successful with black voters, whereas Sanders has no such reserve of familiarity or goodwill to draw on. As such, Obama's 59-point drubbing is arguably more impressive than Clinton's 68-point win. It's entirely possible ― likely, in fact ― that if Obama had been running against Sanders in South Carolina, you'd see an even more lopsided result.
Regardless, the impact of this shellacking on the Democratic primary race can't be overstated. It's in no way over-dramatic to say that Sanders losing the black voters of South Carolina, and in such a spectacular fashion, has effectively ended the race for the Democratic nomination. Because one thing's for sure ― there are a lot more southern states coming up on Tuesday where Sanders faces the same problems.