(RNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was projected by CNN to have handily defeated rival Sen. Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina Democratic Primary on Saturday.
Clinton's massive lead over Sanders signals her strength in the black electorate that her party relies upon immensely in the general election.
The vote comes a week after Donald Trump won the state's Republican primary.
Keeping the support of that electorate is extremely crucial to the Clinton camp, which has bragged about its inroads with the black community and sought to prove Sanders unelectable because of his obscurity in the core bloc of Democratic voters.
It seems unlikely that Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, will be able to wrestle the state away from Clinton. The RealClear Politics average of polls has her leading by an average of 26.6 percentage points. However, how he performs will perhaps be telling of how his candidacy will fare on Super Tuesday, when an even larger chunk of the black electorate will vote all over the Deep South.
The Vermont senator certainly has the ability to captivate the electorate. In the 1960s, he was arrested for protesting at a civil rights event in Chicago. A Chicago Tribune photo of it has created buzz on social media websites - strongholds for Sanders and his young supporters - but it’s yet to be seen if it has peeled away any of the support Clinton holds.
Sanders also received endorsements from director Spike Lee and hip-hop artist Killer Mike.
Clinton’s dominance within the black community is partly connected to her husband, former President Bill Clinton. The 42nd president was often called the “first black president” because of his working-class background, saxophone performances and especially the proclivity of his opponents to attack him for his sexual behavior.
Additionally, Hillary Clinton worked as secretary of state in the cabinet of the first black president, and on the campaign trail, she has regularly hugged tightly to President Barack Obama's legacy as commander in chief.
Hillary Clinton’s past as first lady, however, may also hurt her connections within the black community.
Her husband backed a crime bill in 1994 that has been strongly criticized as promoting mass incarceration and systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
Both the former president and his wife now admit the bill was flawed, but her earlier support of it still lingers.
At an event in South Carolina on Feb. 24, a protester from the Black Lives Matter movement confronted Hillary Clinton on the subject, spawning a YouTube video and Twitter hashtag (#WhichHillary) criticizing the former first lady for calling on the 1994 legislation to bring “super predators” to heel and changing her views on several other issues.
The front-runner’s response has received some criticism as a dismissal of the issue. It has additionally been compared to Sanders’ response to protesters, in which he stepped away from the mic and let them speak. At the time, however, Sanders was called weak by some.
Hillary Clinton now regularly speaks to supporters about ending mass incarceration, which she says disproportionately affects minorities, and acknowledging privilege, as well as gun control legislation to help end violent crime in poverty-stricken areas.
She has been joined on the campaign trail by the mothers of several victims who died in high-profile acts of gun and police violence, including Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin.
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords endorsed Hillary Clinton in January and has campaigned for her in South Carolina. Giffords was the victim of an assassination attempt in 2012 and is now a vocal critic of gun violence.
It shouldn’t be left unsaid that Sanders also voted for the crime legislation in 1994 when he was in Congress, while Hillary Clinton, as first lady, was not in a position to vote for it. She only lobbied for its passage.
The Vermont senator, then a representative, framed his support for the legislation as a compromise. In a speech on it, he said he supported it for the Violence Against Women Act included within the bill.
“I have a number of serious problems with the crime bill, but one part of it that I vigorously support is the Violence Against Women Act,” he said. “We urgently need the $1.8 billion in this bill to combat the epidemic of violence against women on the streets and in the homes of America.”
However, throughout his career, Sanders has taken a strong stance against “tough-on-crime” legislation despite his decision to vote for the 1994 bill.
The black voting bloc may be the most predominant narrative for the upcoming primary in South Carolina and then on Super Tuesday, but it’s not the only one.
Hillary Clinton is under pressure to release transcripts from paid speeches she gave to large financial corporations, such as Goldman Sachs. The progressive voting bloc in the Democratic Party has made cracking down on Wall Street a major theme of the campaign.
She has also continued to insist that Sanders’ economic plans are untenable promises, and economists continue to argue over the details.
Meanwhile, Sanders holds leads in a few Super Tuesday states that could give his campaign the energy to press forward. The senator is in tight races with his rival in Oklahoma and Massachusetts, and he is winning handily in his home state of Vermont.
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