COLUMBIA, S.C. – When his victory was announced about an hour ago, there was hardly a peep in the convention center hall that will hold Sen. Barack Obama's celebration later this evening.
As the television networks declared him the winner of the South Carolina Democratic primary immediately after the polls closed, hundreds of people were still lined up outside to be processed through metal detectors,
"The margin is a pleasant surprise," said Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director. "Obviously, we are very happy."
Obama remains with his wife, Michelle, at a nearby Hampton Inn. His speech later this evening will be timed to hit for local newscasts on the West Coast.
Gibbs said Obama simply nodded earlier this evening when it became clear from exit polls that he would win. "He's very happy," Gibbs added.
To keep relaxed this afternoon, Gibbs said Obama played some basketball as he awaited news of what appears to be a sizable victory in the first heavily African-American state to hold a primary.
David Axelrod, Obama's top strategist, noted heavy turnout and called the victory a "heartening day because it was an affirmation of a new politics."
Gibbs said the race in South Carolina crossed racial and economic lines and shows Obama can win across a wide swath of the nation.
As the race now turns to more than 20 states that will hold primaries and caucuses on Feb. 5, Obama also focused his attention this afternoon to satellite television interviews into Missouri, New York, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Connecticut.
Asked whether he expects the nomination to be won on Feb. 5, Gibbs had a simple answer.
"No," he said.
A reporter then asked when he expected victory would be declared.
"I don't know," he said. "March or early April."