south carolina

Sen. Barack Obama won across South Carolina in Saturday’s Democratic primary — but his largest margin came in the state’s most rural counties.

Obama won 55 percent of the vote statewide against Sen. Hillary Clinton (who won 27 percent) and former Sen. John Edwards (18 percent). But Obama won over 59 percent in South Carolina’s most rural communities, according to an analysis by the Daily Yonder.

Obama won urban South Carolina with 54 percent of the vote and took the exurban counties (counties near cities such as Charlotte, North Carolina, Columbia and Florence, but largely rural in character) with 54.8 percent of the vote. (This analysis counts only votes for Clinton, Obama and Edwards.)

These results are not based on exit polls. They represent the actual votes across South Carolina’s 46 counties.

The most significant dividing line in the primary was race. According to exit polls, Obama won only 24 percent of the votes cast by white South Carolinians. The Illinois senator won nearly 80 percent of the votes cast by African Americans. Among young white voters (those under 29 years of age), however, Obama won 52 percent of the vote, according to the exit polls.

Indeed, race may be the primary reason for Obama’s strong showing in rural South Carolina. According to 2000 US Census figures, 26 percent of the total population in the state’s most urban counties consisted of African Americans. The exurban counties were home to 27 percent of South Carolina’s black population.

The 25 counties in rural South Carolina, however, were 39 percent African American, according to the Census.

Black voters made up just about half the total vote in the state on Saturday, according to the exit polls.

The rural division was significant, however. Obama won over 70 percent of the vote in five counties. Four of those — Jasper, Lee, Marion and Williamsburg — were rural. The fifth, Pickens County, is home to Clemson University. In the precincts around the university, there was heavy turnout for Obama.

Edwards supporters in Seneca, SC

Sam Witherbee, Jason Kowalski and Marisa Markwardt turn out for John Edwards in Seneca, SC.
Photo: Mykal McEldowney, Upstate Today

John Edwards came in second in Pickens County and won in neighboring Oconee; he had campaigned hard in the northwestern part of the state as the “hometown” candidate, born in Seneca, SC.

Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, also campaigned on her South Carolina roots. Her grandfather, Fraser Robinson Sr., hailed from Georgetown, on the central coast, and she reportedly spent summers “visiting their extended relatives in the Low Country town.” Obama won Georgetown County with 60%.

In Chester County, a rural area in the northcentral region, Obama won 67% of the vote. The News and Reporter’s Stephen Guilfoyle wrote that more than twice as many people voted in the Democratic primary as in the Republican race a week ago (Huckabee won the Republican primary in Chester County).

“Assisting the Obama campaign in the county were volunteers from all over the country,” Guilfoyle writes, though no county chairperson was named; local supporters went door to door. Nettie Archie told Guilfoyle that “the economic message of Obama is what really drew her to the candidate….She said Chester County is a prime example of the down economy, and a place that is ready for a change.”

County Democratic chairman Alex Wylie said “he had cards from about 50 people who had wanted to vote but hadn’t in so long, their records appeared to have been removed from the system. Most were allowed to vote some kind of ballot.”

Michelle Obamam in SC
Michelle Obama (back, center) poses with relatives and supporters in Georgetown, SC, her grandfather’s home town.
Photo: American Election

In rural Lancaster County, just east of Chester, Obama won also but with 46%, a slimmer margin. Lancaster County is 27% black, Chester County 39%

Johnathan Ryan with the Lancaster News wrote that “John Dorsey of Indian Land scanned the candidates’ Web sites for positions on issues such as the global job market, trade issues and health care before voting. He said he was a Republican until recently. Both he and his wife, Mary Ann, voted for Obama.

“‘He appears to be able to negotiate and it appears he will talk to our enemies,’ Dorsey said. ‘He’s educated and hasn’t brought race into things.’ His wife likes Obama’s bipartisanship. ‘I like Obama’s message for unity because Congress right now isn’t functioning,’ she said.”

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