White House hopeful Barack Obama took his message of unity on the road Sunday, one day after trouncing rival Hillary Clinton in a race-tinged battle in South Carolina's Democratic primary.
The African-American senator from Illinois said his two-to-one margin over Clinton in Saturday's contest in the heavily black southern state demonstrated that Americans want to transcend racial and partisan divisions.
"I think people want change. I think they want to get beyond some of the racial politics that, you know, has been so dominant in the past," he said on ABC television.
After a tense battle splashed with accusations of "race-baiting," Obama -- who seeks to become the country's first-ever black president -- swept the field with 55 percent of the vote against Clinton's 27 percent and ex-senator John Edwards' 18 percent.
New York Senator Clinton meanwhile defended her husband Bill, whose avid campaigning was blamed for racial polarization and, in some post-vote analyses, for her poor showing.
"Maybe he got a little carried away. You know, that comes with a hard-fought election," Clinton said of the former president.
"It also comes with sleep deprivation which, you know, I think is marking all of us, our families, our supporters," she told CBS.
Although exit polls showed a clear slant among white voters for Clinton and Edwards, Obama said his victory showed that people rejected the nasty politics of the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was president.
"I do think that there is a certain brand of politics that we've become accustomed to ... where we basically think anything is fair game," Obama said.
"There is no doubt that I think that in the '90s, we got caught up in a slash and burn politics that the American people are weary of."
Obama's remarks came as the close-fought campaign looked toward the vast "Super Tuesday" vote of February 5, when more than 20 states vote in both Democratic and Republican primaries, and which could determine the candidates for the November 4 presidential election.
While Obama was in Georgia Sunday, Clinton moved to Tennessee where she addressed a black church congregation. Both have two state nominating contests under their belts, all in states with small numbers of delegates to the party's Denver national nominating convention.
Clinton Sunday highlighted the next stage of the battle while playing down her South Carolina defeat.
"What I'm focused on is, now we're moving forward. We have these 22 states ahead of us" on February 5, when delegate-rich California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts are up for grabs. All four are leaning toward Clinton, according to polls.
She also said Bill Clinton would continue to campaign for her, despite criticisms from prominent party members that he was going too far in personal attacks in the race.
"He is going to continue to be with me and support me and speak out for me," Clinton said.
Meanwhile US media reported that on Monday Obama will pick up the endorsement of Senator Ted Kennedy, doyen of the Democrats' liberal wing -- following another nod from Kennedy's niece Carolina Kennedy, who compared Obama to her father president John F. Kennedy.
"Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves ... and imagine that together we can do great things," Caroline Kennedy wrote of Obama in Sunday's New York Times, under the headline "A President Like my Father."
In the race for the Republican nomination tensions rose ahead of the Florida's primary Tuesday, in which Senator John McCain is closely matched with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Romney lashed out Sunday over McCain's accusation that he had advocated a pullout from Iraq "similar to what the Democrats are seeking, which would have led to the victory by Al-Qaeda."
"Everybody who's looked at what he said has found it to be completely misleading and inaccurate. It's dishonest," said Romney, seeking to burnish his national security credentials in front of Florida's conservatives.
McCain got a major boost with the endorsement of Florida's popular Governor Charlie Crist, while Romney picked up the backing Sunday of diplomat Liz Cheney, the daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney and a top official in the campaign of Fred Thompson until he dropped out of the Republican race this week.
Meanwhile Rudy Giuliani, the former national Republican frontrunner who has pinned his campaign on a Florida victory, saw his hopes sink further when a new poll showed him running fourth in the state.
The Zogby poll Sunday put McCain and Romney tied at 30 percent, Mike Huckabee at 14 percent and Giuliani at 13 percent.
Copyright 2008 AFP.