Obama Gets Even with Clinton; McCain Rises in Fla. In the wake of Sen. Barack Obama's decisive win in the South Carolina Democratic primary, his main rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, has wasted no time in moving on to the next contest. The two presidential candidates have now each won two victories in the early primary and caucus season, shutting out former Sen. John Edwards.
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Audie Cornish, David Greene and Ron Elving, with Andrea Seabrook

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Obama Gets Even with Clinton; McCain Rises in Fla.

Audie Cornish, David Greene and Ron Elving, with Andrea Seabrook

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/18450679/18450678" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Now, updating our top story tonight. Barack Obama has won by a wide margin in today's Democratic primary in South Carolina. With more than 75 percent of the vote counted at this point, Obama has 54 percent of the vote, Hillary Clinton has 27 percent, and John Edwards 19 percent.

Earlier in the hour, former President Bill Clinton responded to the results from the town of Independence, Missouri, the hometown of Harry Truman. Here's a little bit of what he had to say.

President BILL CLINTON: We just finished in South Carolina today. Senator Obama won there. Hillary congratulated him, and I joined that. Now, what a minute, no. He won fair and square. We went there and ask the people to vote for us. They voted for him. We congratulate him. Now, we go to February 5th, when millions of Americans finally get in the act. I was saying that.

SEABROOK: There were no primaries or caucuses today on the Republican side. The GOP primary in South Carolina was last Saturday. The next Republican vote comes this Tuesday, the 29th, in Florida.

Watching the returns with me in the studio is NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Hi, there, Ron.

RON ELVING: Good to be with you, Andrea.

SEABROOK: It's great always to have you here. And we've been talking all evening with NPR's Audie Cornish in Columbia, South Carolina. First, Audie, let me ask you, we're waiting for the winner to come out at this point and talk. What's the - how's the excitement level there right now?

AUDIE CORNISH: Well, between the marching bands and the gospel music and the occasional beach balls that are going back and forth over the crowd, I would say it's pretty festive at this point and it's currently getting towards the goal.

SEABROOK: It seems as if, Audie, that the vote today was pretty racially polarized - big majority of blacks for Obama, big majority of whites for Clinton and Edwards. What does the crowd look like at the Obama event tonight?

CORNISH: Well, I think the crowd and the vote is actually very reflective of the state. We're comparing these both at New Hampshire and Iowa, first of all, where population of African-American is up around 2 percent.

Here, African-Americans dominate the Democratic Party. They are the Democratic Party in a lot of ways. And the crowd reflects that. I always say, very much, it's a majority African-American crowd. And that there are many whites here, and all the whites here, I noticed that they are on the younger side - that these are college-aged students who are out there in front, mixing it up with the crowds.

ELVING: You know - Audie, this is Ron. Barack Obama has tried to make his campaign about everything but race so far. Is this result tonight going to make harder for him?

CORNISH: Well, it's interesting. What is the chance of (unintelligible) besides fired up Obama-Obama is race doesn't matter. That's one of the things that the crowd is really yelling at the top of their lungs. And they're trying to make the argument that he's - the campaigns are trying to make the argument their that he's done well in Iowa, that he's done well with independents in New Hampshire, and that he can move forward. And that this vote should not be seen as something that should hold him back, the presumption that African-American's support for him, something that people, you know, were concerned that he wouldn't get.

SEABROOK: NPR's Audie Cornish tonight with the Obama campaign in South Carolina. Audie, it sounds pretty exciting down there.

CORNISH: It is. It seems that they're fired up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: Also joining us is NPR's David Greene, who was also in Columbia, but without a candidate at the moment.

David, the Clinton people who you were with before have tried to spin this as an Obama state from the start. But was it a month ago?

DAVID GREENE: I don't think it was, Andrea. You know, Hillary Clinton was leading in the polls here as late as December and her campaign was speaking confidently about South Carolina. She invested a lot of money and a lot of ads in the state. And even in the final days, she was here. Bill Clinton was campaigning across the state. They were splitting up to try and cover more ground. So even though they put out a memo today, suggesting that Barack Obama had the state wrapped up for a long time, I don't think if you would ask them that, a few weeks ago, that's exactly what they would've exactly said. But certainly, the expectations came today.

SEABROOK: David Greene, what do you make of having Hillary Clinton's most famous surrogate, Bill Clinton, come out tonight and congratulate the winner?

GREENE: It's hard to say. I mean, Hillary Clinton didn't even react to the result in South Carolina. You know, she got out of dodge and went on to one of the February 5th states, Tennessee, leaving a lot of her supporters at a bar downtown without her. But the decisions - have Bill Clinton come out, you know?

One thing we learned in South Carolina is the last week or two, the Clinton campaign is not going to hesitate to bring former President Bill Clinton out. I don't think that's going to change after these results and I think they might be sending a message that he's going to be a big part of their campaign team and a big part of the message as we go on to these huge states next week.

SEABROOK: NPR's David Greene with the Clinton supporters in South Carolina. Thank you, David.

GREENE: Thanks, Andrea.

So Ron Elving, senior Washington editor NPR, let me ask you. Let's just walk through the results and the effect on each major candidate.

First off, Barack Obama.

ELVING: Barack Obama has had a chance tonight to pull even. It's two-to-two in Democratic events. He has a little bit of his momentum back from Iowa, and he's in a better position to compete when we go on to February 5th.

SEABROOK: Hillary Clinton.

ELVING: Hillary Clinton is, I think, still in the driver's seat, because going into those states, she has more ground game, she has more proven appeal across the board, she has more states where we think she can win, but (unintelligible) the delegates or at least the majority of the delegates. So while this week in sort of somewhat, she is still the dominant position going into February 5th.

SEABROOK: And South Carolina native son John Edwards.

ELVING: John Edwards is the third man in a two-person race. And nothing that happened tonight is going to make it any easier for him to get into that race. Now, he has to ask himself the question what role is he playing as the campaign goes forward.

SEABROOK: What about Florida now? There was news there today ahead of the Tuesday vote, wasn't there?

ELVING: Pretty good sized news, really. The popular Republican governor there, Charlie Crist, has been courted by all the major Republican contestants in that state. And he has decided tonight to endorse John Mcain. Now, that goes with the endorsement John McCain had already won from the state's one Republican senator, Mel Martinez, who is…

SEABROOK: And three Republican members of Congress, also important especially in the Cuban American community.

ELVING: That's right. And of course, Mel Martinez being the highest-elected Cuban American official in that state. So all of those things strongly suggesting that the Republican establishment is beginning to get behind John McCain and his very close race with Mitt Romney in that state.

SEABROOK: NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Thank you very much for being in the studio.

ELVING: My pleasure, Andrea.

SEABROOK: And thanks to all our correspondents out in the field.

From NPR News, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

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