COLUMBIA (South Carolina) • Mrs Hillary Clinton was eyeing a decisive win in South Carolina's Democratic presidential nomination race yesterday, with the hope of gaining momentum against Mr Bernie Sanders before the upcoming high-stakes "Super Tuesday" contests.
Just one week after Mr Donald Trump barrelled to victory in the state's Republican vote, Democrats were taking centre stage in South Carolina, where 55 per cent of voters in the 2008 Democratic primary were black. Polling stations opened their doors at 7am (9pm Singapore time), although voters were scarce at such an early hour on a Saturday morning.
The stations were to close 12 hours later, at which point a winner could be announced if one candidate has a clear lead.
"It would be a super send-off to do well here," Mrs Clinton told several hundred people, most of them African Americans, who gathered on Friday for an oyster roast and fish fry at the county fairgrounds in Orangeburg.
By contrast, Mr Sanders received a cool welcome from the same crowd when he arrived unexpectedly at the event on the heels of the former secretary of state.
Mr Sanders later delivered his final speech to an oversized, half-empty auditorium - while in Iowa, he had easily filled an arena with some 5,000 supporters.
While Mr Sanders has the support of some high-profile African Americans, such as film director Spike Lee and rapper Killer Mike, Mrs Clinton is backed by many local elected officials and black community figures. In particular, Mrs Clinton is poised to win big over Mr Sanders because of her outsized support among the state's rural black poor - a bloc that Mr Sanders has struggled to impress.
The 68-year-old Mrs Clinton is also in favour with many of the same voters who supported her husband, Bill, whose popularity as a presidential candidate rivalled even that of President Barack Obama.
Ms Betty Odom-Bell, 47, an entrepreneur who resides in Denmark, a small town in the middle of a deeply depressed part of rural South Carolina, summed up Mrs Clinton's appeal to those living in the area.
"It's almost like we are a forgotten town," she said, describing her surprise at Mrs Clinton's visit to the town of 3,500 during a campaign stop earlier this month that promised to revitalise the region.
"With her, there is a connection. I don't have that with Bernie."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS