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With breezy South Carolina win, Clinton commands race ahead of Super Tuesday

February 27, 2016 at 8:00 PM EST
Hillary Clinton sailed to a commanding victory over Bernie Sanders in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, drawing support from the state’s black Democrats and putting her in strong position as the race barrels toward Super Tuesday’s crucial contests. Politico reporter Annie Karnie joins Hari Sreenivasan over the phone from Columbia, South Carolina.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: “Politico” reporter Annie Karni is covering the South Carolina Democratic primary. She joins me now by phone from Columbia, South Carolina.

So, Annie, big win for Hillary tonight.

ANNIE KARNI, “POLITICO” REPORTER (via telephone): Big win. They call to race pretty much at the second the polls closed at 7:00 p.m. It was not — there is no chance at all that Bernie would take this. Huge win for Hillary.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And she didn’t even spend most of the day campaigning in South Carolina. She’s kind of moved on.

ANNIE KARNI: She popped out to southern Alabama and then came back to this. I think they knew by now that the race is over. They’ve done a lot of hard work here. They’ve actually spend more time than Bernie did though. The past four days, Hillary and Bill Clinton have both been here this Wednesday night, Thursday morning, without leaving the state.

And Bernie has been making trips to Oklahoma and to other Super Tuesday states where he thinks he has a shot and he kind of seems to have given up a little bit (INAUDIBLE) earlier.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And why have the Clintons focused so heavily on this and what do they hope to take with them to the next set of states after this win?

ANNIE KARNI: Well, what’s significant about this win is that it showed he has not made the inroads with African-American voters he would need to do well on Super Tuesday. The early exit polls show that she’d beat him with black voters by 5-1. That’s after he spent $2 million here and have 200 staffers here.

And then we’re going into Georgia and Arkansas and Tennessee and a lot of southern states with the similar population to South Carolina where he has spent less money and less time and (INAUDIBLE) to be able to complete well there.

So, this is kind of precursor to what the (INAUDIBLE) Clinton operatives are telling me now is that they think that the math will not add up for him even if he wins the five states he thinks he can win on Super Tuesday, which is Colorado, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Massachusetts and his home state of Vermont, even if he wins those, they still look like to come out of Tuesday with a 50-delegate lead and they don’t think he will ever catch up again.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there anything she did on the campaign trail in terms of changing or refining her message?

ANNIE KARNI: Well, what happened here, it was actually really interesting to watch. The script was sort of flipped in her favor for the first time. Here, among older African-American women voters, she’s the authentic candidate who’s been fighting for civil rights her entire life, who’s had Barack Obama’s back for the past eight years. That rings like the authentic candidate.

Bernie Sanders, they don’t really know. They look at his big ideas about free college and Medicare for all with some skepticism.

So, it’s him who’s having to convince them he’s an authentic candidate and that she that comes across as — it’s like a race she wanted to run her whole life here. She’s seen as that authentic, strong leader and these voters talk about how they feel like they have a duty to support her.

So, all the embracing of Barack Obama she’s done, it really resonated here where these voters feel like she supported him and now they owe her.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Annie Karni of “Politico” — thanks so much for joining us.

ANNIE KARNI: Thank you.

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