Donald Trump wins in South Carolina!
Donald J. Trump rolled to a commanding victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, solidifying his position as the Republican presidential front-runner after a savage campaign that drove Jeb Bush, the son and brother of presidents, to quit the race.
Mr. Trump ran ahead of Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, who were locked in a battle for second place. Both have struggled to become the principal alternative to Mr. Trump, a larger-than-life candidate from outside the political system whose nomination would upend the Republican Party.
Mr. Trump has benefited so far from the fractious group of candidates running against him. But the results in South Carolina began to narrow that field to a small and tenacious handful, who may give Mr. Trump a tougher challenge next month in a series of delegate-rich states like Texas, Virginia and Florida.
Celebrating his triumph before a raucous crowd in Spartanburg, Mr. Trump trumpeted the “incredible movement” his campaign had become and looked ahead to the March contests as a chance to lock up the nomination.
“Let’s put this thing away and let’s make America great again,” he said.
Mr. Rubio sought to define the campaign as a contest purely among Mr. Trump, Mr. Cruz and himself. “This has become a three-person race, and we will win the nomination,” he told cheering supporters in Columbia.
Surrounding himself with Gov. Nikki R. Haley, an Indian-American, and Senator Tim Scott, an African-American, Mr. Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, recounted their biographies and his own, seeking to portray the coming race as a choice between the new faces of the Republican Party and Mr. Trump’s brand of resentment politics. Underscoring his frequent theme of generational change, Mr. Rubio declared that it was time for the “children of the Reagan revolution” to lead.
Mr. Bush, who has been on the receiving end of Mr. Trump’s hectoring throughout the campaign, withdrew before 9 p.m. after placing a distant fourth.
Speaking in a subdued tone, and briefly choking up, Mr. Bush did not mention Mr. Trump but said it was essential that the next president be a person who would serve “with honor and decency.”
If the most strenuous test of Mr. Trump’s staying power is still to come, he proved in South Carolina that he would not be easy to stop. Using blunt and at times incendiary language, he found strong support from Republicans without a college degree, those who are angriest about the federal government and those who favor a hard line on illegal immigration, according to surveys of voters leaving the polls.
Mr. Trump’s victory here was not as sweeping as the one in New Hampshire, and there were warning signs as he showed weakness among women and younger voters. But he still won among both independents and Republicans, and among self-described evangelical Christians. He also seemed to have built a coalition that will remain with him through adversity: More than half of voters who made their decisions over a month ago picked Mr. Trump, exit polls showed.
That support held through a tumultuous week in South Carolina, during which Mr. Trump encountered harsh attacks and invited controversy. He faced severe criticism for his past support of abortion rights and for trying to evict an elderly woman from her home to build a casino parking lot in Atlantic City. And he ridiculed President George W. Bush’s handling of terrorism and the Iraq war, criticisms assumed to be ill-considered in any Republican primary, but particularly in a military-rich state that delivered victories to Mr. Bush and his father.
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Jeb Bush brought his older brother, his mother, Barbara, and other relatives to South Carolina to campaign for him. But primary voters here indicated that whatever affection they had for the Bush family was largely nostalgic. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio also finished well behind the top three candidates, but was already seeking to make a case for continuing his candidacy by campaigning Saturday in Vermont and Massachusetts, which hold primaries on March 1, along with 11 other states and American Samoa. (South Carolina’s Democratic primary is on Feb. 27.)
Nevada will hold its Republican caucuses earlier, this Tuesday. But with so little time for campaigning there, and a quarter of all national delegates up for grabs one week later, Super Tuesday looms as a crucial test of whether Mr. Trump will continue his once-unthinkable march to the nomination or will face a stiffer challenge from a culled field.
Seven of the March 1 states are either in the South or border that conservative-leaning region, making the next 10 days pivotal for Mr. Cruz, who has staked his candidacy on being able to consolidate party hard-liners.
Mr. Cruz performed well in South Carolina among voters calling themselves “very conservative” and those who said it greatly mattered to them whether a candidate shared their religious beliefs. But less ideological Republican voters continued to show little support for him.
Mr. Trump outperformed Mr. Cruz among self-described white evangelicals — who amounted to nearly seven in 10 voters — with Mr. Rubio not far behind Mr. Cruz.
If Mr. Cruz is not able to dominate among conservative Christians or broaden his coalition among more moderate Republicans, his campaign will be in jeopardy after Super Tuesday as the race turns to less religious states in the Northeast and Midwest. And Mr. Cruz may face a mortal test of his campaign before then, when his home state of Texas votes on March 1.
Mr. Cruz sought to put the best face on his disappointing finish in South Carolina, telling supporters that he was “effectively tied for second place.” Plainly irritated by Mr. Trump’s harsh assaults on him here, he bemoaned “nonstop personal attacks” and, while praising Mr. Bush, pointedly noted that he did not “go to the gutter.”
Grasping for any advantage after losing two consecutive primaries, Mr. Cruz reached back to his Iowa victory to say he was the only candidate who “has beaten and can beat Donald Trump.” Mr. Trump, who has never held elected office and rails against political leaders, led the polls in South Carolina for months, typically by double-digit margins.
More remarkable given where the race took place was Mr. Trump’s claim in a debate last weekend that the Bush administration had deliberately lied to start a war in Iraq, a remark that drew sharp rebukes from Republican leaders, including former Vice President Dick Cheney.
And on Thursday, Mr. Trump riled up a crowd by responding with indignation to criticism from an unlikely source: Pope Francis, who suggested that Mr. Trump’s views on immigration were inconsistent with Christian principles.
Mr. Trump’s opponents hoped that the spat over Iraq, in particular, might sap his strength in South Carolina. But while exit polls showed that late-deciding voters chose Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz by a wide margin over Mr. Trump, there was no large-scale collapse in his support.
In his victory speech, Mr. Trump took a rhetorical shot at Ms. Haley, by offering abundant praise for Henry McMaster, the state’s lieutenant governor, a top Trump supporter.
“I will take him over the governor anytime,” Mr. Trump said, “because we won.”
Mr. Rubio appeared to recover his political footing in South Carolina after stumbling badly in the New Hampshire primary. By ending up well ahead of Mr. Bush and Mr. Kasich, he may well have secured his position as the safest choice of party leaders who remain totally opposed to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz.
But Mr. Rubio’s performance in South Carolina also illustrates the possible limitations of his candidacy. Despite a series of late developments in his favor, including Ms. Haley’s endorsement, Mr. Rubio was unable to derail either of his harder-line rivals or to loosen their grip on the party’s most conservative voters.
Instead, he cobbled together support here from an assortment of relatively upscale and pragmatic groups, including people with college degrees and voters who said they were dissatisfied but not angry with the government. Most significantly, Mr. Rubio won nearly half of those who said their main concern was choosing a candidate who could win the general election.
But to compete with Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz over the longer haul, Mr. Rubio will rapidly have to consolidate support from mainstream Republicans, even as he becomes a bigger target for attacks in the race.
No candidate made a more valiant effort at sounding upbeat than the man who finished last: Ben Carson. He noted accurately that he “received as many delegates in South Carolina as all other candidates but the winner.”
That would be zero.
source: The New York Times