, COLUMBIA, United States, Feb 27 – Hillary Clinton is eyeing a decisive win in South Carolina’s Democratic presidential nomination race, hoping to gain momentum against Bernie Sanders before the high-stakes “Super Tuesday” contest.
One week after Donald Trump barrelled to victory in the state’s Republican vote, on Saturday Democrats took centre stage in South Carolina, where 55 percent of voters in the 2008 party primary were black.
Clinton is expected to win the southern state, and leads in the national delegate count at this early stage, having won two of the first three nomination contests – in Iowa, narrowly, and Nevada.
Polling stations opened their doors at 7am (1200 GMT) and were to close 12 hours later, at which point a winner could be announced if one candidate has a clear lead.
“It would be a super send-off to do well here,” Clinton told several hundred mostly African American voters, who gathered Friday for an oyster roast and fish fry at the county fairgrounds in Orangeburg.
By contrast, Sanders received a cool welcome from the same crowd when he arrived unexpectedly at the event on the heels of the former secretary of state.
“In 1963, I was there with Doctor (Martin Luther) King for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” he said, earning some applause.
Later in Columbia, Sanders delivered his final speech to an oversized, half-empty auditorium – while in Iowa, he had easily filled an arena with 5,000 supporters.
While Sanders has the support of some high-profile African Americans such as film director Spike Lee and the rapper Killer Mike, Clinton is backed by many local elected officials and black community figures.
The 68-year-old also has the support of many of the same voters who supported her husband, Bill, whose popularity as a presidential candidate rivalled even that of Barack Obama.
Both presidents are men whom Clinton knows well, and she frequently jokes about being a part of their political lineage.
“I’m not running to do either one of their third terms, but I do think they really did a good job for America, and it would be foolish not to learn from them,” Clinton said.
In South Carolina, Clinton’s campaign has worked hard to hammer home the message that she is the only candidate who can break down barriers still preventing minorities from getting ahead.