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."