Donald Trump pulled out an easy win in the South Carolina Republican Primary held Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. With Trump garnering 32.5 percent of the vote, the next closest candidate was Marco Rubio at 22.5 percent and Ted Cruz at a close third with 22.3 percent. Candidates Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Ben Carson were unable to impulse voters and move out of single digit support.
The Huffington Post reported that Trump successfully repelled Jeb Bush’s last best effort to legitimize staying in the race for the Republican nomination. Hailed as a populist candidate, Trump spent the week leading up to Saturday by attacking George W. Bush, questioning his truthfulness regarding weapons of mass destruction. Trump continued blaming him for the events of 9/11, due to lack of leadership.
CNN Politics explained that exit polls revealed voters were not inspired to act based on traditional Republican talking points. Religious voters turned out in increased numbers and about half of all Republican voters said they made up their mind in the last week. Of those identifying as religious, evangelical, or born-again Christians, made up 74 percent of the electorate. In contrast, the Iowa caucus noted 64 percent of Republicans identified as religious.
Of those who cast their vote, 81 percent identified as highly conservative or somewhat conservative. 46 percent of Republicans said that their decision was only made in the past week. Indecision about a candidate was fueled by feeling betrayed by the Republican Party. Cruz and Trump both did well among the 53 percent of those voters. Animosity toward the federal government has been a consistent theme throughout, garnering Trump 42 percent of those voters and propelling him to an easy win in the South Carolina primary.
CNN Politics explained South Carolina Republicans are divided, questioning if the next president should be from within the political establishment or an outsider. While 48 percent say the nominee should be experienced, 47 percent said the next president should be outside the establishment. Of those looking for an outsider, Trump dominated with 61 percent.
The impact of Trump’s victory has been immediate. Jeb Bush formally ended his quest to become the third in his family to hold the office of the presidency. As news of Bush’s exit hit the wire, campaign staff for Rubio began reaching out to Bush supporters. Over the last few months, Rubio’s team have maintained close contact with Bush’s support staff as anticipation of him ending his campaign had strengthened.
The New York Times reported that Rubio expressed he believes the race has been reset. Rubio supporters circulated data points from recent polls indicating that he would defeat Trump if the Republican nomination came down to the two of them. Many of his supporters have long expressed that Rubio was the only candidate with enough mass appeal to score a victory over Democrats in the general election.
The Washington Post reported that many believe an established candidate will eventually pull ahead and put an end to what they view as a loose cannon candidate. The media coverage would have been different if victory had come to a traditional candidate. The Washington Post continued by saying that wishful thinking on the part of establishment Republicans may be what is driving the narrative.
Based on current polls, Trump pulling ahead in an easy win in South Carolina was hardly surprising. Those within the establishment continue their attempts to derail him, yet Trump remains unscathed. Now that the first three primaries are out of the way, Republican candidates are headed to Tennessee. Rubio remains confident that he will be able to maintain his momentum and create distance between himself and Trump, taking control of the race.
By Garrett Sayers
Edited by Jeanette Smith & Cathy Milne
The Huffington Post: What Donald Trump’s Win In South Carolina Says About The Republican Party
CNN Politics: South Carolina exit polls: Religious voters play large role
The Washington Post: Trump Has a Stranglehold on the GOP nomination. So why isn’t he getting credit?
Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License