Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is projected to win an overwhelming victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary, NBC News said Saturday as polls closed.
Clinton was favored to win the race, according to recent polls in the Palmetto State. But her competition, Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, is looking for signs of strong momentum — especially among African American voters. In fact, exit polls showed that Clinton easily won black primary-goers (87 percent to 13 percent, as of 8 p.m. ET). Although early exit poll results indicated Sanders had edged out Clinton among white voters, updated figures from around 8 p.m. showed she had secured a majority of those primary-goers too.
Early exit polls showed that about 61 percent of voters in Saturday's primary identified as black, with only about 35 percent saying they were white, according to NBC News. During the 2008 South Carolina Democratic primary, 55 percent of the voters were black, while 43 percent were white, NBC said.
While Sanders had a better showing among younger black voters — recording about 43 percent of those under 30 years old, according to initial exit polls — Clinton dominated among older African Americans: Early exit polls indicated that she received about 96 percent of the vote from those 65 or older.
Beyond Saturday's primary, Sanders and Clinton are looking to Super Tuesday — when Democrats will vote in 11 states and American Samoa, with 865 delegates up for grabs. There has not been as much polling for the March 1 contests as there was in earlier states, but Clinton has led many recent surveys in Super Tuesday states.
"Tomorrow, this campaign goes national," Clinton said during a Saturday night victory speech. "We are going to compete for every vote in every state: We are not taking anything and we are not taking anyone for granted."
In a statement following the election results projection, Sanders congratulated Clinton, but said his campaign is "just beginning."
"Now it's on to Super Tuesday. In just three days, Democrats in 11 states will pick 10 times more pledged delegates on one day than were selected in the four early states so far in this campaign," he said, "Our grassroots political revolution is growing state by state, and we won't stop now."
Early exit polls indicated South Carolina has one of the least self-identified liberal electorates in a Democratic test so far this year: Only 23 percent described themselves as very liberal, while 29 percent said somewhat liberal and 38 percent said they were moderates.
Additionally, 70 percent of those surveyed in Saturday's initially reported exit polls said they hoped the next president would continue President Barack Obama's policies — 19 percent said they wanted more liberal policies. Among black voters, the number hoping for a continuance of Obama's policies rose to 87 percent, while only 43 percent of white voters expressed that desire, according to NBC.
In her victory speech, often emotional and one many felt was among her strongest addresses of the campaign, Clinton said she is looking forward to continuing to "build on the record and accomplishments of President Obama."
Clinton won the Democrats' last test, the Nevada caucus last week, topping Sanders by about 53 percent to 47 percent.
Clinton also eked out a win in Iowa, but Sanders notched a landslide victory in New Hampshire.
Clinton has led Sanders in most major national polls since the beginning of the race, but the Vermont senator has inched up in recent months: Many recent surveys found a single-digit percentage point difference between the two Democrats.