Sen. Barack Obama swept Mississippi, rolling up large margins in rural, urban and exurban parts of the state.
As in previous contests, Obama pulled a higher percentage of votes out of urban counties than from rural or exurban parts of the state in his battle against Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president. Obama won nearly 68 percent of the vote in Mississippi’s cities but pulled a somewhat smaller proportion of voters in exurban regions, where he won 58 percent. In rural counties, Obama won 59 percent of the vote.
About 86 percent of Mississippi’s population lives in rural counties. In Hinds County — which with the capital city, Jackson, is the state’s most urban county — Obama won more than 80 percent of the vote.
The Mississippi vote divided largely by race, according to exit polling. Obama won nine out of ten votes from African American citizens. Clinton won seven out of ten votes from Whites.
Blacks make up about 34 percent of the voting age population in rural areas and 48 percent in urban counties. African Americans make up a considerably larger proportion of the Democratic electorate. According to exit polling, half of the people who voted in Tuesday’s Democratic primary were African American.
Clinton did well along the Mississippi coast and in northeastern portions of the state. Obama, however, swept most counties.
Obama’s short Mississippi campaign was both a whirlwind and a triumph. On Monday, the Illinois senator addressed the largest crowd ever gathered at Jackson State University for a non-athletic event. An estimated 8,000 people came out to hear Obama.
American democracy is a mix of beliefs and notions, as reporters for the Jackson Clarion Ledger found when they interviewed voters. “I’m an adamant Democrat, so I had to vote for Hillary,” said Katie Phillips, a 78-year-old Flowood retiree. “They say she is a monster, but I think we need a monster to beat the Republicans.”
Madison County resident Rod Garrett told the Jackson newspaper that Clinton has some good points, including her economic strategies, but he said he probably would not vote for a woman for president. “Change wouldn’t consist of Bill running the White House again,” Garrett said. “God put man as the head of the family. God put woman here to be a helpmate to man.”
In Greenville, in the state’s Delta region, Obama set off a “frenzy” with his visit, according to the Delta Democrat Times. The last candidate to visit Greenville was George H. W. Bush in 1992. Joshua Howat Berger describes Obama’s visit to Buck’s Restaurant:
The crowd started to arrive well before Obama did. Buck’s began filling up the moment it opened its door, around 6 a.m. By the time the candidate and his entourage arrived, the restaurant was standing-room only, and a large crowd had begun to gather outside.
“How you doing? How are you? Nice to see you,” Obama said when he came through the door. He shook some hands, then called out to restaurant owner S.B. Buck, “Buck, it doesn’t look like anybody ordered breakfast yet.”
Obama gave a brief speech on what the next president will need to do for the Mississippi Delta – education, economic development and health care were primary themes – then said, “And now, I think I should have some grits.”
Obama ordered hard-scrambled eggs, turkey sausage and wheat toast, then sat down to breakfast, discussing local issues with supporters as he ate.
Obama told the crowd at Buck’s that turnout would be key to his success in the primary today.
But a block away, at the Washington County Extension Building polling center, only 30 Democrats, and no Republicans, had voted by 10 a.m.
“It’s been kind of a slow morning,” a poll worker said.
That stood in sharp contrast to the scene at Buck’s.
After picking up everyone’s tab at the restaurant, Obama went outside to meet some more supporters.
In Columbus, Obama “electrifies” those who came to the Mississippi University for Women’s recreation center Monday morning. According to Columbus Commercial Dispatch reporter Garthia Elena Burnett, “So many piled into and around the building, security had to stop letting people in. More than 1,000 free tickets for the event were all gone by Saturday morning, but hundreds of additional people turned out in hopes of getting a chance to see the Democratic presidential frontrunner.”
The racial divide in the vote was stark. In the four Mississippi counties where African Americans comprise less than ten percent of the population (Tishomingo, Itawamba, Hancock and George), Sen. Clinton won 87 percent, 85 percent, 70 percent and 78 percent of the vote.
However, not every county followed a strict racial voting pattern. In Rankin County, an exurban county outside Jackson, only 18.5 percent of its voting age population is African American, but Obama won 61 percent of the vote on Tuesday.