Senator Barack Obama has won the South Carolina Democratic primary by a substantial margin, easily defeating Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

Obama pulled in more votes than all his opponents combined, collecting 57 percent from a record turnout of South Carolina voters. Clinton trailed far behind with 26 percent and Edwards came in a distant third with 18 percent. The broadcast networks declared Obama the winner within seconds of the polls closing at 7 p.m.

Wire service reports called Obama’s victory “a rout.” It was that and more…a stunning repudiation of Clinton and the divisive tactics of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Turnout was heavy, especially in black precincts throughout the state and exit polls showed Obama winning handily among African-American voters. But the same polls also showed Obama doing well with white voters, increasing speculation that increasing criticism from the Clinton camp may have backfired.

With polls showing the gap between Obama and Clinton widening as the primary day neared, Clinton saw the handwriting on the wall and left to campaign in Super Tuesday states.

Her husband remained behind, stepping up the harsh rhetoric that soured many voters. Exit polls showed voters considered Clinton more partisan and thought Obama was the candidate for change.

The overwhelming victory gives Obama momentum as the up and down primary race heads into Super Tuesday on Feb. 5. It is still anyone’s race to win…or lose.

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