This column was written by John Nichols.
Clinton wins in Florida, but the numbers are ominous…
New York Senatorbid more aggressively for a win in the meaningless-but-maybe-meaningful Florida Democratic primary. She dispatched campaigner-in-chief Bill Clinton to the state for weeks of just-below-the-radar campaigning. On Sunday, she flew to Florida, violating the pledge all the major Democratic contenders has made to avoid campaigning in the state that scheduled its primary earlier than was allowed by the Democratic National Convention. She promised to do everything in her power -- which could be considerable if she is the presumed nominee -- to overturn a DNC bar on the seating of Florida delegates at this summer's Democratic National Convention.
She even appeared in Florida on primary night to claim her victory.
It was all part of a strategy to reclaim the limelight that she lost to Illinois Senatorwhen he swept last Saturday's South Carolina primary.
But for all her trouble, Clinton could barely secure half the vote in Florida.
With almost all the votes counted, Clinton was at 50 percent. Obama was winning 33 percent. Former North Carolina Senatorwas at 14 percent. And , who is out of the race, pulled 1 percent.
Ominously for Clinton, she lost the black vote -- badly.
Seventy-three percent of African-Americans surveyed by exit pollsters said they had voted for Obama. Clinton won just 25 percent.
Clinton won the white vote with 53 percent to 23 percent for Obama and 20 percent for Edwards.
Latinos were most favorable to Clinton, giving her 59 percent to 30 percent for Obama and 8 percent for Edwards.
Obama almost split the urban vote with Clinton. She got 45 percent to his 40 percent, with 12 percent going to Edwards.
In rural areas, Clinton pulled just 42 percent of the vote to 24 percent for Obama. Edwards showed his greatest strength in the small towns, winning 31 percent. Interestingly, Edwards won 10 of the state's 67 counties and ran a strong second in many more.
That's especially bad news for Clinton because, as a number of the country's most rural states prepare to vote February 5, Edwards will be competing for their votes. The populist Democrat showed in Florida, a state where he did not even campaign, that he can run strong in rural areas. And Edwards will be campaigning in coming days on Oklahoma, Tennessee, Minnesota and other states with vast rural stretches.
That means that, even as Clinton focuses on her fight with Obama in big urban states such as Florida and New Jersey, she will still be feeling some heat from John Edwards in regions that are not necessarily Obama's bases of strength.
So it is that, while Clinton brags about her Florida win, the numbers from Florida illustrate the challenges that lay ahead for her.
By John Nichols
Reprinted with permission from The Nation