The Bottom Lines

1. A win is a win is a win. Forget the racial and gender demographics. A big win is a big win. This is a big win. Obama nearly received more votes than all the Democrats combined in 2004. South Carolina was also a primary, not a caucus.

2. Finishing a low second and a few points ahead John Edwards is a tough truth for Hillary Clinton to confront. The campaign predicted they'd finish second but did not believe that Edwards would come as close as he did.

3. The South Carolina primary is ammunition for those who believe that Clinton is only electable on the coasts. (That's why she's in Tennessee tonight.) A point: in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, a majority of Democrats have voted against Hillary Clinton.

4. Undoubtedly, black voters were turned off by the Clinton campaign's insinuation that their vote really didn't count because everyone just knew they'd choose Obama.

5. The exit polls show that Bill Clinton did not help his wife not one bit in South Carolina and may have hurt her. Late deciders were driven to Obama by large margins.

6. Obama kept it competitive with white voters and brought tens of thousands of new voters and young voters into the process. His usual coalition -- younger folks, folks with college degrees -- expanded to include voters of all income levels. This is key to Feb. 5.

7. Whether the racial prism through which South Carolina was viewed was, in matter of fact, the
fault of a concerted effort by the Clintons, the political establishment believes it to be so, and the Clintons face a huge perception problem. BTW: the margin of victory tonight could persuade folks like Ted Kennedy to shrug off their neutrality and endorse.

8. Confidence does not become the Clinton campaign. When it gets cocky, it loses focus and humility, which seems to be the key to its success.

9. Boy, can the Obama campaign organize. Steve Hildebrand helped to put this together. Jeremy Bird, Stacey Brayboy and Anton Gunn executed it. Cornell Belcher polled it. And Michelle Obama helped more than one might expect.

10. The margin of victory was so big that the press was easily able to dismiss the Clinton campaign's spin tonight. But here are legitimate points they might make:
(a). About 20 percent of black voters did choose Hillary Clinton.
(b) In no major state going forward does Barack Obama have the same demographic advantages as he had in South Carolina. (In Georgia, 30% of the population is black; in Alabama, the figure is 25%. In California, which allocates 8 times as many delegates as South Carolina does, is about 7% black. (Arkansas and New York have large black populations, but…)
(c) South Carolina and Iowa were the two retail states where Obama's campaign worked the hardest and spent the most, and Obama was able to build movements in those states. But it took months. He can't replicate these organizations in 22 states in 9 days.
(d) Hillary Clinton is running strong in states like Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas -- all interior states -- and is stronger in the states with the most delegates.
(e) Including Florida and Michigan, more Democrats have voted for HRC than any other candidate by far.

Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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