The Democratic calendar finally reached a good Hillary Clinton state on Saturday, and wow did she take advantage of it.
She was expected to win big. Nate Silver projected that if the national race was a tie between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, she would win in South Carolina by about 20 percentage points.
Instead, she romped by far more — taking over 70 percent of the vote.
The bottom line is that Sanders still hasn’t found any way to appeal to black voters, who made up a large percentage of Democratic turnout. Without them no candidate can compete for a Democratic presidential nomination.
The exit polls in South Carolina showed Sanders losing the black vote by some 70 percentage points. That not only doomed him on Saturday, but also it dooms him in far too many states to have any serious chance of being nominated.
We’re going to see the effects today in some Super Tuesday states, where polls have Sanders getting crushed in Texas, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia.
Outside of his home state of Vermont, where he’s expected to win easily, it’s not clear from the polls that he’ll win anywhere. Clinton, for example, appears to be leading or tied in Massachusetts — a state where Silver had anticipated Sanders would need to win by 11 percentage points to get to a national tie.
If Clinton does have a very good day today, Sanders will just be too far behind in delegates to catch her unless something changes dramatically, and very soon.
Sanders has run an impressive campaign, sparking enthusiasm among many people and forcing Clinton to take the primaries and caucuses seriously. He’s earned the right to contest the nomination as long as he wants.
He’ll have to start thinking now, however, how he can best serve the “revolution” he espouses.
Does he really want to take his revolution into loss after loss in the remaining primaries and caucuses?
Does he believe trying to pick off a handful of states is the best use of all of those small contributions he is so proud to have garnered?
Oddly enough, Sanders has basically been a loyal Democrat during his career in Congress, despite refusing to call himself a member of that party.
He’s certain to warmly endorse Clinton before the convention. The only question whether he does it after a few more weeks, or waits until she technically clinches the nomination in the delegate count, or even until the final primaries in June.
Can he and his supporters figure out something constructive to do with the energy they have generated together?
Will they take to state and local primary elections, working to elect liberals over more moderate Democrats?
Will they turn to the general election, and try to win back the U.S. Senate and some governorships — and maybe some state legislatures — for Democrats?
Sanders hasn’t been a national leader during his long political career.
He is one now. He has to decide what he will do with his new influence.
Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist.