Updated: Feb. 27, 7:06 p.m. EST
Hillary Clinton scored a decisive victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Saturday, riding strong support from black voters to an easy win against Bernie Sanders before they turn to the series of Super Tuesday states voting next week.
The former Secretary of State’s victory, projected by the Associated Press immediately after polls closed at 7 p.m. E.T.,comes despite months of heavy spending by Sanders, who poured millions of organizational and advertising dollars into the state in an attempt to break through Clinton’s so-called “firewall” of black voters.
“The goddamn firewall has a crack in it.” the hip-hop artist Killer Mike, a prominent Sanders surrogate for black voters, said at South Carolina’s Claflin University on Friday.
But in the end, the firewall held. Clinton has now captured three of the four early-voting states, following her razor-thin Iowa victory and Sanders’ blowout win in New Hampshire with easy wins over Sanders in Nevada and South Carolina. A growing delegate lead and building momentum puts Clinton in a strong position as the race moves to the 11 states which vote on March 1, or Super Tuesday. Sanders, who polls showed trailing big in South Carolina ahead of the vote, had already left to campaign in Super Tuesdays states before polls closed on Saturday.
In the four days before the South Carolina primary, Clinton visited a historically black university, appeared on stage with a grammy-nominated R&B artist, held a meeting with the mothers of African-Americans who have been , and had surrogates like Cory Booker and Jim Clyburn out to campaign for her. She was in South Carolina every day since Tuesday, according to her public schedule, and had at least 10 events in the state since Tuesday.
During the same period, Bernie Sanders had just three.
The two Democrats’ schedules reflected their vastly different hopes in the state’s Democratic primary on Saturday. Clinton was campaigning for a landslide victory, while Sanders was already looking ahead to Minnesota, Colorado, Illinois and beyond. The calculus for the Vermont senator in South Carolina was daunting. Polls showed him an average of about 25 points behind in the state, and he has not shown an ability to break through with the bulk of black voters there. For Clinton, South Carolina was be a reaffirmation of her ability to attract a key segment of Democratic voters: Black voters accounted for 55% of the electorate when she lost the South Carolina primary to Barack Obama in 2008.
And Clinton did what she could to it win decisively. Thursday night found the former Secretary of State on a stage in Charleston, wearing an eggplant-colored pantsuit and dancing to the grammy-nominated R&B singer Charlie Wilson in front of a mostly-black crowd. “That voice. That energy. That intensity,” Clinton said of her musical accompanist. On Friday, she stopped at a café and ran into a bridegroom and customer with his friends and ended up in a photo of the men, who knelt at her feet, as if at a wedding. “I love having men at my feet,” Clinton said.
Sanders’ aides believe his path to the nomination rests on Super Tuesday and afterward, where he hopes to rebuild momentum after losses in Nevada and South Carolina. His aides believe he has a good chance to win at least five states—Vermont, Massachusetts, Colorado, Oklahoma and Minnesota—and earn significant number of delegates in the rest of the 11 states voting on March 1. The 74-year-old democratic socialist has far exceeded expectations in the race so far.
But Clinton’s South Carolina win could vault her through the Super Tuesday southern states with large black populations, like Alabama, Texas and Georgia, and make her difficult to catch in the coming weeks. A series of decisive wins could dampen her opponents’ online fundraising operation if his supporters perceive him losing steam. Federal Election Commission records show that while he is bringing in a record amount in small-dollar donations, he is burning through cash by spending heavily on advertising and building out his campaign infrastructure: He ended January with $14.7 million, less than half Clinton’s war chest.
Clinton’s outreach to black voters has been clear. In the last couple of days she has spoke often about systemic racism and the need to confront it. At a town hall meeting hosted by CNN in South Carolina on Tuesday, she said, “We have serious challenges and I think its important for people, and particularly white people, to be honest about this and our experiences may not equip us to understand what our fellow African-American citizens go through every single day.” On Facebook during a question-and-answer session, Clinton said, “White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers that you face every day.”
Sanders’ surrogates have been around the state, too. Killer Mike, the rapper who sparked controversy earlier this month by saying a uterus doesn’t qualify one to be President, embarked on a barber shop tour, and Jane Sanders, the candidate’s wife, held an event on Tuesday. Sanders drew a crowd of more than 5,000 in Greenville on Sunday.
But the Vermont senator has spent the bulk of the week outside the state: in Michigan, where aides think he has an opportunity for a strong showing on March 8, as well as Minnesota, Oklahoma, Colorado, all states where Sanders’ aides believe he can win. He visited Flint, Mich. on Thursday and spoke emotionally about the water crisis in the city, several weeks after Clinton’s first stop there. He also targeted Clinton sharply in a speech in Chicago, listing a litany of differences and criticizing her on her Wall Street speeches.
This article was originally published on Time.com.