Obama claims diverse win

An exultant Barack Obama said his overwhelming win in South Carolina disproved notions that Democratic voters are deeply divided along racial lines.

“We have the most votes, the most delegates, and the most diverse coalition of Americans we’ve seen in a long, long time,” the Illinois senator told joyful supporters at a rally. “They are young and old; rich and poor. They are black and white; Latino and Asian.”

As if anticipating his remarks, his supporters chanted “Race doesn’t matter” before Obama took the stage in Columbia, and again as he spoke for 20 minutes.

Obama praised runners-up Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards without naming them. But he took a veiled shot at the sometimes edgy comments made by the former first lady and former President Clinton in recent days.

“We’re looking to fundamentally change the status quo in Washington,” Obama said. “And right now, that status quo is fighting back with everything it’s got; with the same old tactics that divide and distract us from solving the problems people face.”

“We are up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election,” Obama said. “We know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics. This is why people don’t believe what their leaders say anymore. This is why they tune out. And this election is our chance to give the American people a reason to believe again.”

The crowd repeatedly chanted, “Yes we can!”

With wins in heavily white Iowa and in South Carolina, where about half of Saturday’s voters were black, Obama said he has proven he can win in any region.

He said he wants to disprove “the assumption that young people are apathetic” and “the assumption that African-Americans can’t support the white candidate; whites can’t support the African-American candidate; blacks and Latinos can’t come together.”

Even as he spoke, Obama got a boost from Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy.

“Over the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president,” she wrote in the Sunday’s edition of The New York Times. “That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.”

After his speech, Obama flew to Macon, Ga., where he planned to attend a church service Sunday before campaigning in Birmingham, Ala. He planned to return to Washington to attend President Bush’s State of the Union address Monday night.