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As crucial S.C. vote nears, Hillary Clinton goes elsewhere

January 22, 2008 |  2:54 am

Now that the South Carolina Democratic primary is only four days away, Sen. Hillary Clinton has high-tailed it out of that state for a few days. Say what?

Some see the strategy as a hedge against a loss there Saturday to Sen. Barack Obama, who's shown increasing strength in the African-American community, which makes up about half of that state's Democratic voters. After losing in New Hampshire and Nevada, South Carolina has become something of a must-win for Obama, as he eyes future votes in Georgia and Alabama, also with large black populations.

Clinton spokesmen deny they're conceding anything in South Carolina. In fact, they will have several surrogates in-state including....

the candidate's favorite attack dog, her husband Bill, and daughter Chelsea campaigning there all week. After an embarrassing snooze caught on camera during services for Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, the ex-president will begin work this morning having breakfast in Columbia at the Lizard's Thicket restaurant and hit Aiken and Greenville later.

His wife, meanwhile, left South Carolina immediately after Monday's heated debate for campaign appearances and fundraisers in Feb. 5 states, including town hall meetings in Salinas, Calif., and Arizona today and in New Jersey on Wednesday. Thursday, she'll return to South Carolina.

On Feb. 5, 1,678 Democratic delegates are at stake across the country compared with 45 in South Carolina, which is not winner-take-all. So even if Obama wins a large number of delegates there Saturday, Clinton can still pick up some as she tries to assemble a national victory.

--Andrew Malcolm