(CN) – The candidate was running late.
As about 1,800 people lined up outside the Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston Thursday night, former Secretary of Staff Hillary Clinton had yet to even board the private plane that would bring her to Charleston from Myrtle Beach, S.C., some 98 miles away.
The wait, however, did nothing to diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd, which bided its time listening the music of Katie Perry, Taylor Swift and Bon Jovi that played over loud speakers, and by breaking into spontaneous chants.
“Madam,” someone shouted out near the foot of the stage.
“President,” came a voice near the back of the room.
With that, the call and response was off and running.
A short time later another chant arose, this time it was:
“I believe …”
” … she will win.”
“I believe …”
” … she will win.”
One day before the polls open, there is now little doubt that Clinton will score a decisive victory in South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary. A poll released by Clemson University as the candidate barnstormed through eastern South Carolina Thursday showed her having a commanding 50 point lead over her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
The poll shows that 64 percent of likely voters will vote for Clinton on Saturday, while just 14 percent will definitely support Sanders. Slightly more than 1 in 5 voters told university researchers they are still undecided. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.
“After a razor-thin victory by Clinton in the Iowa caucuses, a blowout by Sanders in the New Hampshire primary and a small victory margin by Clinton in the Nevada caucuses, Clinton is perched on the cusp of her own significant primary victory in the Palmetto State,” said Bruce Ransom, a Clemson political science professor and co-director of the poll.
Ransom noted an interesting wrinkle in the compiling of the university’s latest poll. Unlike last week, when Republican voters cited several reasons for their choice of candidate prior to the state’s Republican presidential primary, more than two-thirds of voters participating in the Democratic poll refused to say why they preferred one candidate over the other.
Clinton’s supporters were far less circumspect at the Baptist church, where the campaign rally a Town Hall-style event hosted by State Sen. Marion Kimpson was held in the church-school’s gymnasium, which had been converted into a meeting hall for the occasion.
“I really admire that after all she’s been through, the nonsense over the Benghazi attack in Libya and all the rest, that she’s still going after it again,” said Manish Mazyck, whose husband Darren, seated next to her, nodded in agreement.
The couple said they’ve been following both the Democratic and Republican races, and, like many others, have been surprised by many aspects of them.
“I don’t even know where to start,” Mazyck said as she tried to put her response to the campaigns into words.
“There’s been nothing usual about this year,” she said, but added, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“I think in the long run it will inspire people who have courage, but are not necessarily political, to get involved in the process and seek office themselves,” Mazyck said.
Turning back to the present race, and the prospect that in the end it might boil down to a general election pitting Clinton against shoot-from-the-hip billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump, Darren Mazyck said the Democrat’s experience “will carry her through all that.”
He and his wife then recalled the many times Clinton has been in Republican crosshairs, dating back to Bill Clinton’s presidency, and even his years as governor of Arkansas.
Talk of the president, who his making three campaign appearances on his wife’s behalf Friday, prompted one to ask whether any of the Mazycks’ enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton is a carryover from the regard they feel for the former president.
“They’re two different people,” Manish Mazyck said. “She can stand on her own.”
Across the wide room from the Mazycks, Andrea Ubansky bounced on the balls of her feet to the music, to the delight of her toddler daughter Eve. Meanwhile her husband excused himself, carrying their other child, a baby girl, into an adjacent room.
“I would say I’m still on the fence about who I’ll support on Saturday, but I wanted to feel the momentum, and we wanted our children to be able to someday say they saw the first woman president,” Ubansky said.
As she spoke, it became clear that she’s at least leaning toward Clinton.
“Frankly, I’m shocked Bernie [Sanders] has gotten as this far, and is putting up this big fight for the nomination,” Ubansky said.
“I’m also disappointed that Democrats haven’t embraced Hillary Clinton more than they have to date,” she said.
The Clemson poll suggests that hasn’t been a problem in South Carolina. In fact, so significant and consistent has Clinton’s support in the state been that Sanders has largely conceded the state, campaigning instead in Super Tuesday states where he’s more competitive.
Privately it has been suggested in Charleston Democratic circles that Sanders looked at the lay of the electoral map in the state and concluded waging a major battle to come close, but not win in South Carolina was simply not a wise way to spend either his time or his campaign cash.
“I think Sanders made a huge mistake not being here more,” Ubansky said.
“Then again, maybe that was part of his ‘strategery,'” she said, using a world invented by television talk show host and Charleston native Stephen Colbert.
Ironically, as Ubansky said this, Colbert’s sister Elizabeth, herself recently a Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives (She ran against for S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford, but lost), was standing just a few feet away.
It should also be noted that Sanders has two campaign rallies scheduled in South Carolina Friday afternoon, in Columbia and Orangeburg, both in the center of the state.
Like the Mazycks, Ubansky said she’s also been following the Republican race for the nomination.
Also like the Mazycks, the only Republican candidate she mentioned by name was Donald Trump, whom she dismissed as “an entertainer.”
“That said, I take him at his word that he would actually follow through on the horrible things he says,” Ubansky said. “But what really horrifies me is that so many people agree with him.”
If the race for the White House does come down to a contest between Clinton and Trump, Ubansky said, “I definitely think she will win.”
“But what I hope long before that might happen is that a significant percentage of the Republican party those with morals and concern for the details of the proposals tossed about find some way to stop him,” she said.
Sitting quietly by himself, Windell Lawrence cut a dapper figure in black slacks, purple jacket and yellow shirt. His ensemble was topped off by a purple baseball cap.
He smiled as a reporter approached.
“Why did I come out tonight? Because I want to be part of what Hillary’s all about,” Lawrence said.
“I think she represented us well when she was senator from New York, and when she was first lady and secretary of state, and I think she will represent us well as president of the United States,” he said.
“I think she well deserves to be the first woman president,” he added.
Lawrence said he doesn’t dislike Sanders, but that at the end of the day, “Hillary and her husband have done well by [the black community] and done well by the Democratic party.”
He went on to say that given the intransigence of Republicans in Washington, D.C., Clinton “will likely have some of the same problems that President Obama has had.”
“But I think she’ll prevail in the end,” Lawrence said. “She’s very capable and doesn’t shy away from difficult situations.”
“I think Hillary will do everything she possible can to move her agenda forward, and I believe it’s a good agenda. I think she’ll be good on the economy, on justice reform, on fairness for blacks and Latinos. I think she’ll look out for human liberty and the middle class.”
Lawrence said he too expects the presidential race to come down to Clinton and Trump, but he marvels at the idea.
“He’s said some crazy stuff,” Lawrence said, shaking his head slowly. “But it seems like he’d have to do something really, really bad for people to give up on him.”
With that, Tess Spencer, a host of Good Morning Charleston on the local ABC affiliate, began the program.
After an invocation by Rev. Dr. Charles Watkins, Jr., and the singing of the national anthem, Spencer moved on to the introduction of several local dignitaries.
All but one said a few words. The exception was Michael Brown, a newly-elected member of the North Charleston City Council.
Stepping to the podium on the left side of the stage, he suddenly began to sing, borrowing the melody of the of the 1969 hit “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” by Steam.
“We are ready,” he sang.
“We are ready,”
“We’re ready,” he smiled, raising a hand.
” … for Hillary.”
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