Obama scored resounding primary win
COLUMBIA -- Going into Tuesday's critical Texas and Ohio primaries, the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton has South Carolina in its rear-view mirror.
A little more than a month ago, Clinton came to the Palmetto State clinging to her long-held status as front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
She exited the state with the core of her campaign operation in disarray.
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Clinton's quest to become the first woman to be president of the United States effectively could end in two days, unless she scores big wins in Texas and Ohio.
South Carolina played a huge role in derailing Clinton's candidacy, observers say.
"If she doesn't end up getting the nomination, political analysts will look back and say South Carolina is where it started," said Todd Shaw, USC assistant professor of political science.
Experts say you can take your pick of reasons as to why Clinton was handed such a resounding defeat here, picking up just 27 percent of the vote to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's 55 percent.
Three developments, however, seem to be at the core of why Clinton lost here:
• Iowa legitimizing Obama as a serious, historic candidate;
• The tactical error of coming here, and once she got here, the realization that her ground game was inferior to Obama's;
• Former President Bill Clinton, considered before the race to be a campaign asset, upset black voters by introducing race into the contest while the world was watching. That eliminated another of Clinton's perceived advantages, as Bill Clinton has in the past month receded to the background.
Obama, of Illinois, won credibility among black voters after his stunning Iowa win.
"The Iowa caucus first demonstrated Hillary's flaws as a candidate, and her third-place finish was devastating," said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
While New Hampshire and Nevada revived Clinton and seemed to validate conventional wisdom about her inevitability, Sabato said, "the Obama campaign was already laying the groundwork in South Carolina and across the country, especially in the caucus states ignored by the Clinton campaign."
"The South Carolina victory revived Obama," Sabato said.