COLUMBIA, S.C. – The immediate story, it seems, is Obama’s overwhelming 81 percent take among African-Americans, according to exit polls. Even among whites, he took 24 percent—less than both his opponents, but a big jump from Thursday’s McClatchy poll that put his support among whites at 10 percent. (And which has driven much of the hand-flapping over Obama’s supposed unelectability among whites.)
The narrative coming out of the Obama camp is two-fold: One: This isn’t a fluke. Spokesman David Axelrod, at the center of a press horde, argues that Obama can do well nationwide, even among whites. “Did you go to Iowa?” he asks a reporter. “What did you see?” The implicit answer: white people. “Yesterday, you guys said we weren’t gonna make 10 percent. That was the narrative.” And two: This win was hard-fought. Axelrod points out that Sen. Edwards “was a native son in this state. … This was a real butt-kicking, in the old-fashioned parlance.”
The Clinton camp will no doubt argue that Obama sank everything he had into the state. He spent the whole past week here; she hopped around a few Feb. 5 states. Hillary isn’t even in South Carolina tonight; she’s holding an event in Nashville. And, of course, implicit in everything will be the race factor.
But one exit poll result should hearten Obama fans (and, you know, non-racists):
Three in four voters said the country is ready to elect a black president and about as many said that about a woman. Somewhat more Clinton voters said the country is not ready to elect a black than Obama voters said the country wasn’t ready to elect a female president.
Granted, many of the people who said America is ready for a black president had just voted for one. Plus, those numbers are likely to be much different in the white south. But given that much of the anxiety about electing a black president has come from the black community itself, these numbers indicate a change in attitude.