So the battle lines are drawn, and it's not about black against white, or change vs. experience, or good Bill squaring off against bad Bill.
The fight between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama pits different visions of where the nation's Democrats want to take the country's politics -- and places the Clinton legacy (with all its relevant implications and connotations) at the very center.
"This election is about past versus future," Obama said in declaring victory. "Out of many we are one. While we breathe, we hope," he said, referencing the state motto and his own campaign slogan, per The State's John O'Connor.
It took four hard-fought battles (and continued sparring with a certain former president), but Obama has now joined his soaring rhetoric with a definite message -- one that is fiercely and firmly anti-Clinton.
"He told supporters they are facing a formidable challenge, and then, alluding to controversies that erupted with the Clintons last week, said, 'This is our chance to end it once and for all,' " Dan Balz, Anne Kornblut, and Shailagh Murray write in The Washington Post.
South Carolina proves (finally) that Obama, D-Ill., belongs in the same league as Clinton, D-N.Y. -- if he's not quite able to claim a promotion yet. Camp Clinton did a masterful job of expectations-setting, making South Carolina a must-win for Obama, but the whittling knives of spin can't carve up a 28-point margin.
Obama on Saturday didn't just beat the spread -- he made Vegas look dumb. The victory "sets the stage for a multistate fight for the party's presidential nomination," Jeff Zeleny and Marjorie Connelly write in The New York Times. "Mr. Obama's convincing victory puts him on equal footing with Mrs. Clinton -- with two wins each in early-voting states -- and gives him fresh momentum as the contest plunges into a nationwide battle over the next 10 days."
And Sunday morning brings Obama a boost that makes his Kennedyesque appeal more explicit. Senator Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., will endorse Barack Obama's presidential bid on Monday in Washington, a source close to Kennedy tells ABC News.
And this five-word headline on The New York Times op-ed page carries unique weight in the Democratic Party, given the author: "A President Like My Father."Writes Caroline Kennedy (dropping the Schlossberg for the extraordinary occasion): "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president -- not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."
He won without giving up what's made him a potent political force. But Obama's decision to dwell on Clinton (if not by name) even in declaring victory speaks to the changed nature of the Democratic race. The results "suggested divisions that flew in the face of Obama's message of unity," Mark Z. Barabak writes in the Los Angeles Times. "The Illinois senator won 4 out of 5 black votes in the state Saturday versus 1 out of 4 white votes."
Obama may well be the candidate who's more in tune with the message of the moment, yet it remains Clinton who has the tuned-up campaign engine. Sen. Clinton made sure she wasn't even in South Carolina when the race was called -- showing that she was moving on, as the campaign enters a very different phase; the vast majority of the voters in the states that follow will not have breathed the same air as the candidates themselves.
"South Carolina was real -- everything else for the next nine days will be virtual," Salon's Walter Shapiro writes. "The Obama and Clinton campaigns may believe that they have planned for this de facto national primary, but that probably is a form of hubris. In truth, running a campaign in this context is akin to tossing a bottle into New York harbor and praying that it eventually floats to Portugal."
The fact that the Clinton campaign is trying to make Florida count -- after months of tacitly agreeing that it wouldn't or shouldn't -- reveals some of the larger (and quite savvy) strategic forces designed to keep Obama off-balance.
"Clinton won't campaign there, but she will campaign for Florida -- and in all likelihood, she will win the votes of several hundred thousand Floridians on Feb. 29," The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder writes. "In Florida and beyond, watch for Clinton to focus on the forest, not the trees -- the national popular vote and the superdelegates who follow the herd, and not (so much) the earned delegates." LINK
There are lots of reasons not to read too much into the results, starting with how difficult it will be to replicate the circumstances of South Carolina. The black vote won't be nearly as large in most of the Feb. 5 states (Clinton is the one who goes in with a demographic edge, given her advantage among whites and Latinos), and nowhere else will former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., be as well-equipped to play a major role.
Per ABC's Gary Langer and Brian Hartman, "A vast wave of support from African-Americans lifted Barack Obama to victory in South Carolina's Democratic primary. But his showing among white voters suggests an uphill battle in those upcoming primaries where black voters may play less of a role."
"Clinton did better among white Democrats, while Edwards had more support among white independents -- of use to Clinton, again if it holds, in upcoming closed or partially closed primaries," the write.
But things have come together twice for Obama now, in Iowa and now in South Carolina (bracketing two contests where the Clinton machine delivered with all its precision).
In South Carolina, Obama won everywhere, essentially. "Barack Obama's Democratic rout came on waves of support from almost anywhere you looked Saturday -- the poorest and richest counties, the most liberal and conservative ones and the areas with both the largest and smallest concentrations of black voters," Ben Szobody writes in the Greenville News.
The margin and breadth of victory in South Carolina appears large enough for Obama to salvage his core message: that he can unite the country.
The primary "threatened to undercut one of his main themes: that he can transcend the nation's divisions," Alec MacGillis writes in The Washington Post. "With yesterday's resounding victory, Obama may have dodged that threat, emerging from a hard-fought primary with his message of conciliation and his strategy of cross-demographic appeal intact, even as he faces considerable challenges leading up to the crush of 22 states voting a week from Tuesday." l
Now we will know the answer, with more honesty than any spin can offer: Who's really running the Clinton campaign? If the answer to that question is NOT Bill Clinton, then we should be seeing a serious reassessment of the former president's role in the campaign, as he spends from a diminished reserve of political capital.
His strategy didn't work -- at least not this time. "Her advisers' steady attacks on Mr. Obama appeared to prove fruitless, if not counterproductive, and the attack-dog role of former President Bill Clinton seemed to have backfired," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times.
"South Carolina voters showed little taste for the Clintons' political approach," Healy writes. "They said in exit polls that their main concern was the economy; during an all-out campaign blitz on behalf of his wife here, Mr. Clinton spent the last week highlighting Mr. Obama's record on Iraq and his recent statements about the transformational nature of Ronald Reagan's presidency."
"Left behind in South Carolina, Bill Clinton became the attack dog of his wife's campaign," Lee Bandy writes in his column in The State. "His critiques of Obama brought a new level of divisiveness and rancor to the campaign, shocking South Carolinians who had never seen Clinton close up."
If you needed proof that he's been consistently and intentionally making the race about race, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding -- the former president's oh-so-casual mention of the fact that Jesse Jackson also won South Carolina (in caucuses, not primaries) should settle the matter.
"The Clintons paid a steep price for trying to marginalize Obama as a minority candidate. Their effort may still work; Obama won just a quarter of the white vote in South Carolina, and white voters dominate most of the states yet to hold elections," AP's Ron Fournier writes. "But, for one night at least, racial politics got marginalized."
Unless -- as is often the case with the former president -- Bill Clinton was operating at a level mere political mortals cannot hope to understand, playing chess while we've been watching checkers. Obama's is a diminished campaign because of South Carolina, if only slightly -- more defensive, more responsive, and just a bit worried about being turned into something his candidacy is all about NOT becoming: the "black candidate."
"In the longer term . . . the Bill Clinton effect could prove more effective for the campaign of the senator from New York," Michael Tackett writes in the Chicago Tribune. "The degree to which Obama is seen as a black candidate rather than a candidate who happens to be black is likely to play a larger role in the upcoming states, none of which have such sizable percentages of black voters as South Carolina. . . . Bill Clinton is often thought in the moment to be doing the wrong thing, when it turns out to be the right thing politically."
Newsweek's Evan Thomas and Suzanne Smalley grab the former president in all of his rope-line candor: "Let me just say that I went through a year and all I did was compliment Senator Obama and I continued to compliment him when he said in Iowa that my wife was a dishonest person. An untruthful person.. . . A person without character."
As for what's next from the former president, if you need evidence that nobody controls Bill, check out the conflicting quotes from Clinton advisers: "I think you'll see him dial it back," says one adviser. "I think there was a strategic decision made for him to be the attack dog," says another. A third: "This all started because he thought the media wasn't doing its job, looking into Obama's record."
And then there's Edwards: His four-state strategy is in shambles, and money starts to become a real issue approximately yesterday. The early-voting states have given him second, third, distant third, and third again -- the last coming in his native South Carolina, where he won the primary four years ago, and where his last best chance to get in the game may have passed him by.
Edwards "leaves the state fending off [questions about whether] his campaign was dealt a near fatal blow," ABC's David Muir and Raelyn Johnson write. Said Edwards: "I'm not engaging in counting delegates and all of that, but I do believe there are three of us. And it's going to be very hard to get to 50 percent."
But it's hard for him to smile now -- or to find a realistic path to the nomination. "If Edwards could have made a move, it would have been in South Carolina, where he won the primary four years ago and where the son of a millworker could appeal to millworkers, former millworkers and descendants of millworkers just like him," Jonathan Weisman writes in The Washington Post. (Even John Edwards doesn't say "millworker" four times in a sentence -- does he?)
This is why it's hard to turn things around at this point: "Edwards was hurt by a widespread perception that he can't win the nomination," McClatchy's David Lightman writes.
For now, it looks like Obama won't take Clinton's Florida bait. His challenge, as always, will be to retain his core message, even as the campaign appears ready to take an even nastier turn.
"He left with his campaign's central argument -- that he can attract a broad new range of supporters -- intact," Politico's Ben Smith and Carrie Budoff Brown write. "His aides indicated that he'll now try to cut his potential losses in the two big states that vote Feb. 5 -- New York and California -- by trying to challenge Clinton for delegates while running hard in smaller states."
Among the Republicans . . .
Florida starts getting some serious love now, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., found a way to break through even on a big Democratic night. He adds Gov. Charlie Crist, R-Fla., to his roster of endorsements, giving him a little more Republican cover and a lot more last-minute campaign help in a critical state for his campaign.
The Miami Herald's Casey Woods and Marc Caputo call it "a major campaign coup": "The endorsement from a governor with an approval rating that hovers between 60 and 70 percent could prove to be a crucial factor in persuading the 13 percent of undecided Republicans to vote for McCain on Tuesday," they write, noting that Crist made his choice known a day after Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., endorsed him.
"In a competitive race that has quartered the political establishment in Florida, the back-to-back nods by the two highest-ranking Republicans in the state gives McCain the aura of a frontrunner, though Romney is outspending him on television," Woods and Caputo report.
ABC's Karen Travers and Teddy Davis recall the history: The day before his election as governor in 2006, Crist stood up President Bush and instead attended an event with McCain around the same time. They write, "If Florida's popular governor is able to lift McCain to a win in the Sunshine State, it could mean the end of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's White House bid and firmly establish McCain as the GOP's frontrunner going into Feb. 5 when more than 20 states vote."
It's still looking like a two-man GOP race in Florida, and McCain and former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., are sparring over the Iraq war. This time, it's McCain who launched the attack: "Governor Romney wanted to set a date for withdrawal similar to what the Democrats are seeking, which would have led to a victory by Al Qaeda in my view," he said Saturday in Ft. Myers, Fla.
Romney: "To say that I have a specific date is simply wrong and is dishonest, and he should apologize." Romney is mostly right, but per ABC's John Berman, Bret Hovell, Ursula Fahy, and Matt Stuart, "During an appearance on Good Morning America on April 3, 2007, Romney did express support for private benchmarks and time tables."
Think McCain knows how important Florida is? "Mr. McCain's comments marked the second straight day of going on the offensive against Mr. Romney," Michael Luo and John M. Broder report in The New York Times. "While Mr. Romney, a former business executive and governor of Massachusetts, has reveled in the shift in attention to the economy in the contest, Mr. McCain, of Arizona, has sought to remind voters about the continuing threat of Islamic extremism and his national security credentials."
On the economic front, The Boston Globe provides McCain some fresh ammunition, with a look at chances Romney had (but didn't take) to preserve jobs back when he headed up Bain Capital.
Focusing on a 1995 strike at a paper company that led to the loss of 200 jobs, the Globe's Robert Gavin writes: "Romney's decision to stay on the sidelines as his firm, Bain Capital, slashed jobs at the office supply manufacturer stands in marked contrast to his recent pledges to beleaguered auto workers in Michigan and textile workers in South Carolina to 'fight to save every job.' . . . Throughout his 15-year career at Bain Capital, which bought, sold, and merged dozens of companies, Romney had other chances to fight to save jobs, but didn't. His ultimate responsibility was to make money for Bain's investors, former partners said."
Giuliani, R-N.Y., is making what could be his last big TV buy, with a super-sized 90-second ad that's set to run on Florida's CBS affiliates Sunday evening. "Only Rudy Giuliani" is the message, ABC's Jan Simmonds reports. "As he has conducted his entire media campaign, Giuliani's ad makes no mention of his Republican opponents, rather focusing on his own record and plans for the country," Simmonds writes.
Those Florida polls he once loved to point to? Ignore them, he says now. "Vote your heart," Giuliani said Saturday, per Joseph Curl of the Washington Times. "Don't listen to any of the cynics. Don't listen to any of the experts -- you're the experts."
It's all Florida, all the time for the GOPers through Tuesday. But first, McCain does "Meet the Press," while Mike Huckabee does "Fox News Sunday," and Romney and Huckabee sit down for CNN's "Late Edition." LINK
On the Sunday Shows:
Sen. Obama avoided engaging Bill Clinton over comments he made about Jessie Jackson winning the South Carolina Democratic primary in 1984 and 1988 that some have interpreted as meaning Obama is like, Jackson, a black candidate, who won a state with a large black population, and nothing more.
"His frame of reference was the Jesse Jackson races," said Obama in an adjustment of the original question about whether the former president was playing racial politics. "That's when, you know, he was active and involved and watching what was going to take place in South Carolina. I think that a lot of South Carolinians looked at it through a different lens. . . As long as we were focused on those issues, we thought those would transcend the sort of racial divisions that we've seen in the past."
Obama cleverly did try to play to his campaign argument that he represents a new kind of politics and the Clintons represent the past when talking about the 1990s. "..there is no doubt that I think that in the '90s, we got caught up in a slash-and-burn politics that the American people of weary of," said Obama. "And we still see it in Washington today. It is very hard for us to have a common sense, non-ideological conversation about how we're going to deal with our energy problems. It's very difficult for us to figure out how are we going to make this economy work for all people and not just some people. Now that is not the Clintons' fault. It is all our faults, in the sense that we've gotten into these bad habits and we can't seem to have disagreements without being disagreeable."
The senator said he will return all campaign funds connected to indicted Chicago real estate developer Tony Rezco. "It's in our interest to do so." On NBC's "Meet the Press" Sen. McCain continued to rip Mitt Romney for saying he would support private tabletables for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. "Governor Romney obviously said there had to be 'timetables,' although they had to be secret because we weren't going to tell the enemy when we were leaving. I mean that's--that's just a fact," said McCain. "And if we'd done that, as the Democrats and some Republicans wanted to do, we would've lost that surge and al-Qaeda would be celebrating a victory over the United States."
Over of CBS's "Face the Nation", Senator Clinton announced she would travel to Florida Tuesday night, proof her campaign is trying to make the delegate-less contest matter. The former first lady also admitted her husband's sharp comments about Sen. Obama in recent weeks may have been over the top.
"Well, I think it's human nature, Bob. I think that the spouses of all three of us have, you know, been passionate and vigorous defenders of each of us and, you know, maybe got a little carried away." She continued, "And people know his heart. They know, you know, what he has stood for. So, I'm really glad that he's there with me, and I think everybody just needs to take a deep breath. We need to be focusing on what's important in the lives of Americans." She did not explain exactly on what issues former President Clinton got carried away with.
Mayor Giuliani appeared on the same program and predicted he would win the Republican primary in Florida on Tuesday and defended his decision not to compete in earlier Republican contests. "I believe the best strategy for us was one where we concentrated on Florida. Given all the pros and cons of each one of our races and the assets that we had, the resources we had, the best chance we had was here in Florida. And I think that's going to be proven correct on Tuesday. "
Giuliani confessed to being blindsided by Gov. Crist's endorsement of Sen. McCain on Saturday. "The reality is, I was surprised by the governor's endorsement. But everybody endorses. The attorney general, Bill McCollum, longtime congressman here, now attorney general, endorses me, is my campaign chairman."
After throwing a few elbows at his Republican opponents on "Fox News Sunday," Mike Huckabee weighed in on the tough exchanges in the Democratic presidential contest between Obama the Clintons pointing to what he thinks is the Clinton's willingness to do whatever it takes to win. "I understand there are not two people who are better at street fighting politics than Bill and Hillary Clinton. And I've been telling people a long time, 'Don't underestimate the scrappiness with which they'll approach this race,'" said Huckabee. "And in fact, I think the one thing you have to keep your eyes on is that tactics will change, but the goal will never, ever fade, and that is win, whatever it takes to do it."
Obama is also Steve Kroft's subject in a "60 Minutes" profile Sunday night.
She "is helping me relieve stress." -- Mitt Romney, on one of his wife's roles in the campaign. LINK
"Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here." -- Bill Clinton, leaving the state on a flat note. LINK
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