Donald Trump continued building on his momentum in the Republican presidential race Saturday, winning South Carolina’s GOP primary by double digits.
Trump had been the heavy favorite coming into South Carolina after winning New Hampshire’s primary by a large margin last week. His performance in the Palmetto State closely matched what polls had suggested entering the day, picking up 33 percent of the vote.
As expected, the closer race was for second place where US Sen. Marco Rubio appears to have edged out fellow US Sen. Ted Cruz by less than 1,000 votes. However, the close margin has little significance beyond public image, as South Carolina differs from other states in that it does not award delegates for a second-place finish.
Trump — and his wife and daughter– thanked South Carolina supporters at his victory party in Spartanburg. The crowd of a couple of thousand roared when New York businessman continued his battle of words with Gov. Nikki Haley, who endorsed Marco Rubio this week.
“You know Henry, right? The lieutenant governor of South Carolina, I will take him over the governor any time because we won, we won!”
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With all but nine precincts reporting as of 11 p.m., more than 732,000 votes had been cast — a record turnout for the state’s presidential primary. Trump won 44 of the 46 counties, with the exception being the more urban Richland and Charleston.
South Carolina’s Republican Party awards delegates in a hybrid winner-take-all model. Of the state’s 50 delegates, 29 at-large and automatic delegates are awarded to the candidate who wins the overall primary. The remaining 21 are divided between the state’s 7 congressional districts, meaning the candidate who receives the most votes in each district will receive the 3 delegates from that district. That is different from Iowa and New Hampshire, which award delegates proportionally based on how many votes the candidates received.
By winning South Carolina’s 29 automatic and at-large delegates, Trump gains 50 total as the GOP race moves to Nevada’s caucus on Feb. 27. He has 67 delegates after this weekend, however, with the next closest candidate being Cruz with 11,
The GOP winner must get 1,237 delegates to clinch the nomination.