Sen. Barack Obama claimed a significant victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday, telling supporters "we are hungry for change."LINK: Obama claims big win in South Carolina
The Illinois senator earned more than twice the vote that rival Sen. Hillary Clinton did, 55 percent to 27 percent, unofficial returns showed.
Former Sen. John Edwards was third with 18 percent.
"Tonight, the cynics who believed that what began in the snows of Iowa was just an illusion were told a different story by the good people of South Carolina," Obama said to supporters Saturday.
A win in South Carolina was considered crucial for Obama, who won Iowa but finished second to Clinton in New Hampshire and Nevada. See what the results mean »
"I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina. I saw South Carolina," he said.
"The choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders," Obama said. "It's not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white.
"It's about the past versus the future."
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Obama had 55 percent of the vote. Clinton was second with 27 percent, followed by Edwards, with 18 percent. Obama's victory capped a heated contest in South Carolina, the first Democratic primary in the South and the first with a largely African-American electorate.
Obama, who is hoping to become the the nation's first African-American president, did well with black voters, who made up about half of Saturday's electorate, according to exit polls.
Black voters supported the Illinois senator by a margin of more than 4-to-1 over his nearest rival, exit polls indicate.
Among white voters, Obama took about a quarter of the vote, with Clinton and Edwards roughly splitting the remainder, according to exit polls.
Clinton congratulated Obama and said she was excited to move forward to the Super Tuesday contests on February 5.
"Millions and millions of Americans are going to have the chance to have their voices heard and their votes counted," she told supporters at Tennessee State University.
Edwards also looked ahead to the next contests.
"Now the three of us move on to February 5, where millions of Americans will cast their vote and help shape the future of this party and help shape the future of America," he said.
"Our campaign from the very beginning has been about one central thing, and that is to give voice to the millions of Americans who have absolutely no voice in this democracy."
And as long as more Democrats are voting than Republicans, it can only be good news.