WASHINGTON The score is now one to one.
Sen. Hillary Clinton won in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire Tuesday night with 39 percent of the vote compared to Sen. Barack Obama's 37 percent. Obama won Iowa, Jan. 3, with 39 percent to Clinton's 29 percent. So now the battle shifts to South Carolina, Jan. 26, where the more than 40 percent Black Democratic voters will decide what happens next.
Obama says voter turnout will be the key.
"What will help me to get elected is making sure the people turn out to vote and that they recognize the opportunity that we have to - for the first time in a long time - really change our politics…And that's true, not just for Black folks, but for all people who've been locked out of the process," Obama said in a telephone interview with the NNPA News Service Tuesday. "But, there's no doubt that my candidacy builds on the sacrifices and work of those who came earlier, people who were willing to go to jail and march and sit in and heroes like Dr. King who were willing to sacrifice their lives so that a future generation could have the opportunities that I have."
Obama could make history only if he wins enough delegates in the Democratic primaries to go on and face a Republican in the fall.
Arizona Sen. John McCain led the New Hampshire Primary ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won in Iowa. Few African-American voters, usually about 10 percent, support Republican candidates.
It takes 2,162 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.
Pundits predict that between South Carolina and Super Tuesday Feb. 5, when 22 states will go to the polls, the obvious Democratic nominee will emerge.
Several factors indicate that anything could happen. That includes Clinton's surprise win in New Hampshire – defying polls that had predicted Obama with a double-digit lead. Those members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have chosen to endorse a candidate are fairly evenly split, with 15 supporting Obama and 16 in favor of Clinton. The score was tied until New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne endorsed Clinton last week.
Also, the fact that Clinton could also make history by becoming the first woman president adds to the intrigue of the contest — particularly since Black women, who comprise at least 30 percent of the Black vote, are expected to decide the contest in South Carolina.
The day after Clinton's Iowa loss to both Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who got 30 percent of the vote, she told NNPA that she was not intimidated by Obama's momentum — even in South Carolina where polls indicate he will be favored among Black voters.
"I do not see myself as being disadvantaged. I have a very long record of working with and producing results for African-Americans, for poor people, for hard-working people, for kids. And I'll put that record up against anyone. And if you want to know what kind of changes any of us will make, look at what we've already done. That's the best predictor of what we will do in the future," Clinton said in the interview. "I'm running to be the president of all America, and especially to those who have been invisible in many of the decisions that have been made over the last seven years. So, I will be talking about the issues that matter to all families, but particularly to African-American families."
At the time of the interview, Clinton was climbing uphill to New Hampshire as another landslide for Obama was expected. But at 11 p.m. Tuesday, she stood triumphant before an audience that was chanting, "Comeback kid!"
"Together, let's give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me," Clinton told her supporters. "This campaign is about people, about making sure that everyone in this country has the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential. That has been the work of my life."
To wild applause, she continued, "Too many have been invisible for too long. Well, you're not invisible to me."
In Iowa, Obama had also answered his cheering crowd with a resounding message of hope reminiscent of those in the 1960s:
"Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire; what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation; what led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause. Hope. Hope is what led me here today - with a father from Kenya; a mother from Kansas - and a story that could only happen in the United States of America."
In his concession speech Tuesday night, he led the audience in a chant, "Yes we can!"
As Obama prepares to take that message into South Carolina, polls show him with a double-digit lead over his opponents. South Carolina has the nation's largest contingency of Black Democrats.
After that race they will vie in the 22 states where large Black turnouts are expected to go to the polls on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5. Clinton said in the interview that she will fight back with issues.
"I have a long history of fighting to expand civil rights and improving our public schools and giving every child a chance to go to college. I'm going to crack down on predatory lenders and put homeownership back in reach for middle income and low income Americans. I'm finally going to be able to deliver on health care because I think the plan I have is not only totally universal to cover everybody, but it's politically doable. And we'll be doing more to address the high rates in which African-Americans suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes. I will continue the work I've done to expand access to capital and technical assistance for minority entrepreneurs and small business owners. And I have paid particular attention to the economic vitality of both, our inner cities, and our rural areas."
Obama said in the interview that he too will stress his issues platform. He says education, more money and health care are the three most essential issues for Black America.
"Number one has to be education. And that means education from the day a child is born until the day they graduate from college. So, we have proposed an additional $18 billion a year in education spending," he said.
He stressed the need for early childhood education, raising teachers' salaries, offering more professional development for teachers, changing parts of Bush's "No Child Left Behind" so that schools that are already behind get resources that they need and granting a $4,000 a year tuition credit for every college student.
Secondly, "We need to put more money into the pockets of our community," he said. He said tax breaks for middle and low-income people, including mortgage deductions would be a part of his economic plan.
Finally, a universal health care system would be his third priority, he says, "Making sure that everybody has a health care plan that is at least as good as the health care plan that I have as a member of Congress."
Clinton concludes that regardless of who ultimately wins the Democratic nomination, the diversity of the Democratic candidates themselves says more about the Party than it does about any of the candidates.
"I am proud to be running for president in a field of candidates who truly represent America," she says. "We've come a long way to have a woman, a Latino (New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson) and an African-American, all with a chance to become the Democratic nominee. That to me is a tribute to the Democratic Party and to our country."