With 99 percent of all South Carolina precincts reporting, initial election returns show Donald Trump has 54.9 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 40.7 percent.
That would be a huge margin for the Republican if it holds up. For comparison, Mitt Romney won South Carolina by 10.5 percentage points in 2012 and U.S. Sen. John McCain took the state by 9 points. Gov. Nikki Haley won reelection by 14.5 percentage points.
Map of how SC counties voted:
The margin stunned Democrats, who had been banking on high negativity ratings for Trump to help them in down-ballot races. And indeed, early decisions by the Associated Press and news networks not to call South Carolina for Trump until an hour after polls closed seemed to suggest the race could be closer.
But the margins seemed to indicate that Republicans and independents who had been leaning towards a third-party vote in earlier polling mostly returned to Trump by Tuesday. It also suggested that heavy turnout in South Carolina also benefitted Republicans, particularly in rural areas of the Upstate which went overwhelmingly for Trump. Clinton’s overall votes were down about 200 total from President Obama’s 2012 numbers, while Trump had nearly 75,000 more votes than Romney did that same year.
Clinton’s inability to break 40 percent in the suburban counties like Aiken, Dorchester, Lexington and York dragged her down despite strong urban performance.
Trump’s strong victory comes despite the state’s political leadership largely disregarding his campaign. Gov. Haley’s support had been lukewarm and South Carolina’s senior U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham outright opposed him, even saying Tuesday that he had voted for independent candidate Evan McMullin. However, it’s likely great news for Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, who had been the first statewide elected official from any state to endorse Trump during the GOP primary.