An Obama 'Rout '

From the AP: Barack Obama routed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the racially-charged South Carolina primary Saturday night, regaining campaign momentum in the prelude to a Feb. 5 coast-to-coast competition for more than 1,600 Democratic National Convention delegates.

UPDATE, 11:45 p.m: Just arrived in Boca Raton, Fla. (I'm down here to cover Tuesday's Republican primary). As you all know by now, Obama whooped, whipped and/or whumped Clinton in South Carolina, more than doubling the margin the polls predicted (11.8 percent) to win by 27 points. The other thing he doubled? Clinton's vote total. As top strategist David Axelrod put it, tonight was "a good, old-fashioned butt-kicking." Earlier I wrote that Obama, who had long led in the polls, faced impossible odds in the expectations game: "If the Illinois Democrat hits that dozen-digit mark, it's what everyone was anticipating--i.e., no big deal. If he surpasses it, we'll all say 'good for him.'" Well, guess what? He ran the table. With shocked pundits now rhapsodizing over the size of Obama's victory, he'll certainly get better headlines than expected. Will it be enough to overcome the chatter about racial polarization and bloc-voting among blacks, who represented 55 percent of the electorate and chose Obama over Clinton 81 percent to 17 percent? Will it quiet doubts about whether the Illinois senator can woo whites (24 percent to Clinton's 36 and Edwards' 39)? I'll give the predictions a rest for now. We'll find out soon enough.

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: In case there was any doubt about how the Clintons would spin Obama's victory (via the Washington Post):

On Saturday, as Sen. Barack Obama was sweeping up the South Carolina primary, former Pres. Bill Clinton was busy downplaying the significance of Obama's impending win, casting it as a function of the state's demographics and the Illinois senator's heavy African American support. "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88," Clinton said at a rally in Columbia. "Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."

Ron Fournier says that they're running (and winning) "a larger campaign to polarize voters around race and marginalize Obama (in the insidious words of one of her top advisers) as 'The Black Candidate.'" That sure looks true tonight.

Will it backfire? The comments are all yours.