As expected, Barack Obama took a much needed victory from the South Carolina primary. Hillary Clinton, after winning several primaries in a row, finished second but remains a frontrunner. And John Edwards, who tried to make a late grab to overtake Clinton, finished third and may be in the last stages of his campaign. As Obama tries to ride his victory into Super Tuesday, and Clinton looks to maintain her lead, South Carolina exit polls may be a telling sign of how this newest twist of the Democratic primary race turned out.
According to the Associated Press, African Americans voted for Obama in an overwhelming fashion. Around 80% of black voters supported Obama, but these results were expected. Obama will need to secure more white voters, so that he can have the crossover appeal needed to win the primaries, and the general election. In South Carolina, Obama did not quite get that outcome, but he was not left in the dust by white voters.
A quarter of white voters supported Obama, while the remaining three quarters were divided between Clinton and Edwards. Although Obama gained less votes than Clinton and Edwards with white voters, neither candidate had a big enough lead among whites to overtake him. If Clinton is to use white voters to counteract Obama’s support with African Americans, then she must hope that Edwards doesn’t take many votes away from her among whites. As such, she needs to quickly finish Edwards off on Super Tuesday, as many expect her to do.
As for the gender factor, Clinton received a good amount of support from white women. According to the National Journal, Clinton received 42% of voters from white women, while Obama only got 22%. However, Obama received a far bigger boost from African American supporters than Clinton did with female supporters. Because both candidates got the boosts they needed to secure their bases, the demographics of Super Tuesday states will be key. It may depend on whether more African Americans turn out for Obama, or if more women turn out for Clinton.
If the candidates want to choose an issue to highlight, it might want to be the economy. According to The Hotline, half of South Carolina voters chose the economy as the top issue in the race, with only one in five highlighting the war in Iraq. This is understandable, considering the troublesome downturns on Wall Street this past week. With worries about a recession growing, the candidates may want to shift away from Iraq for the time being, at least until the downturn stabilizes. A quarter of South Carolina voters cited health case as a top concern, so the candidates can still use that to get ahead.
According to CNN, the recent spats between the Clinton and Obama camps drew almost equal criticism. Among those who blamed one candidate more than the other, three times as many voters blamed Clinton more than Obama. Among those who blamed Clinton and Obama equally for the conflict, 43% of them voted for Obama while 31% voted for Clinton. In this case, it seems that Clinton received slightly more backlash for this week’s turmoil than Obama did. In the event that these battles continue, the Clinton camp might want to keep that in mind heading into Super Tuesday.
Associated Press- “Early SC Exit Poll Highlights” http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5g-mb4b3T9hE_91fQD51y46cNreKQD8UDSQ000
CNN Political Ticker- The role of race and gender http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/01/26/exit-polls-the-role-of-race-and-gender/
CNN Political Ticker- Voters spread blame for campaign trail conflict http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/01/26/exit-polls-voters-spread-blame-for-campaign-trail-conflict/
Newsday- “Obama wins South Carolina; Clinton finishes second” http://www.newsday.com/news/local/politics/ny-usmain0127,0,7789713.story
Hotline on Call: What Women Want http://hotlineblog.nationaljournal.com/archives/2008/01/what_women_want.html