A bruised but defiant Bernie Sanders has vowed to push on with his insurgent campaign for the White House after doing “really, really badly" in the South Carolina Primary and allowing Hillary Clinton to seize the momentum ahead of Super Tuesday.
Mr Sanders did even more poorly than he had expected to on Saturday, trailing Ms Clinton by almost 50 points, a scale of defeat bigger than that suffered by the former secretary of state when she lost here to Barack Obama in 2008. This time, Ms Clinton managed to secure a bigger share of the black vote than Mr Obama.
The victory for Ms Clinton - her third in the four primaries so far - not only deals a huge psychological and emotional blow to Mr Sanders, but raises pressing questions about whether he now has a viable strategy to win the nomination.
“I think we still have a path to victory,” Mr Sanders insisted on Sunday morning, speaking to CBS. “I would tell you that we did get beaten and beaten very badly. But I think that will be as bad as it gets.”
But observers say Mr Sanders’ failure to attract African American voters in either South Carolina or in Nevada a week ago, may presage more misery to come on Tuesday, when a total of 14 states and territories vote.
Super Tuesday contains several Southern states - Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia - where African Americans make up a large number of Democrat voters. Louisiana votes four days later, and Mississippi goes to the polls on March 15, along with Michigan. Those who have tracked the numbers of delegates in each state, suggest Mr Sanders is going to have to perform remarkably well in states in the north and east to stay in the battle.
“The door is closing fast for Bernie Sanders,” Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis told Reuters. “Movement candidates are about momentum and excitement, and losses sap that momentum. That's his problem right now.”
Mr Sanders claimed that he had won support in South Carolina among young black voters, and white voters. He said that the young voters who have rallied to his socialist, impassioned campaign that has highlighted the amount of corporate money in politics and rising inequality, were the nation’s future. But he admitted: “It’s a tough road for us.”
It was not as if Mr Sanders, who was due to campaign in Colorado on Sunday, had not made a genuine effort to compete in South Carolina. He has hired a black speechwriter to help channel his message, secured the support of celebrities such as Danny Glover and Killer Mike and received the endorsement of senior black figures such as Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP. He spent around $2m in advertising in the state and had the director Spike Lee narrate one of his adverts.
But he was always going to struggle against Ms Clinton, who as fighting what was effectively her third contest here, having campaigned with her husband Bill Clinton in 1992.
Ms Clinton, only too aware of the defeat she suffered to Mr Obama eight years ago, had worked hard to reach out to African American voters, especially women, and talked about issues such as healthcare, education and the economy.
Kimberly Scott, 30, who voted for Ms Clinton at a polling centre at Charleston’s Burke High School on Saturday, said she remembered the days of Mr Clinton’s presidency when the economy was strong.
She liked Mr Sanders but believed that Ms Clinton could deliver. “Bernie Sanders is good on some things, but he does not touch everything that she does,” she told The Independent.
She also raised the issues that had been pushed by the Black Lives Matter movement, and talked about gun control, the criminal justice system and the number of African Americans in jail. She received the emotional powerful endorsement of five black women whose children had been killed - either by the police, or at the hands of strangers.
In her powerful victory speech, on Saturday night, Mrs Clinton named and thanked those women, the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Dontre Hamilton, Jordan Davis, and Eric Garner.
She also referred to the shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where nine black people were killed last June when a young white man with a gun attacked a bible study group. Dylan Roof, a 21-year-old alleged white supremacist, has been charged with nine counts of murder.
“One of the church members said ‘look at the all the violence’ and asked how are we going to strengthen the bonds of the community,” she said. “We’re going to with love and respect for one another.”
She also took aim at Donald Trump, the tycoon and Republican frontrunner, who has also won three of the first four races and who looks equally well positioned ahead of Super Tuesday.
Without naming Mr Trump, but in anticipation of a general election that could be a showdown between the two of them, Mr Clinton added: “Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again, America has never stopped being great. But we do need to make it whole…Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers.“Reuse content