Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump moved one step closer to the party’s nomination Saturday with a win in the South Carolina primary.
With 99 percent (2,234 of 2,239) of precincts reporting late Saturday, Trump earned 32 percent of the vote (238,509), while Marco Rubio (165,046) and Ted Cruz (164,004) were nearly even with 22 percent.
BREAKING: Rubio narrowly edges Cruz for second place in complete but unofficial SC GOP primary results
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 21, 2016
Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race, earned 8 percent of the vote, as did John Kasich. Ben Carson had 7 percent.
The Associated Press called the Trump victory at 5:29 p.m. MST.
Exit polls taken in South Carolina found that about three-quarters of Republican voters support a temporary ban on Muslims who are not American citizens from entering the United States. That’s one of Trump’s signature proposals.
A majority of voters looking for an outsider candidate supported Trump, providing a boost to the first-time candidate for office.
At least four times as many Republicans were expected to vote in the first-in-the-South primary as in Iowa.
About four in 10 South Carolina Republican primary voters say that an important quality in a candidate is that they “shares my values.”
A poll conducted by voters in Saturday’s primary showed that being an instrument of change and electability in November are also important qualities.
The voters are split on whether the next president should be an outsider or a member of the political establishment. Nearly half said they prefer someone who has experience in politics and about the same numbers would rather see someone from outside the political establishment.
Four in 10 voters see the campaign of Donald Trump as most unfair, and a third said that of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign. Less than 10 percent selected Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or John Kasich.
The survey was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research with voters leaving 35 randomly selected precincts throughout South Carolina.
Trump, who was coming off a big win in the New Hampshire primary, spent most of the buildup to South Carolina urging his supporters to get out and vote.
“We have a movement going on folks,” Trump told a crowd of more than 5,000 at a rally in Myrtle Beach. “And we can’t blow the movement. We have to make sure we get a big mandate. We have to go out and vote.”
Trump appeared to hold a commanding lead less than 24 hours before voting began. With his win, he captured a good number of the 50 delegates up for grabs in Saturday’s primary contest and struck a painful blow to rival Ted Cruz.
The Texas senator should have fared well in the southern state, which boasts a large population of evangelical Christians and tea party supporters. Cruz speaks frequently about his faith and brought it up numerous times in the buildup to Saturday.
“Every minute that you’re not on the phone calling friends and loved ones, spend beseeching God, praying for this country, that this spirit of revival that is sweeping this country continue and grow, and that we awaken the body of Christ,” the Texas senator said at a Myrtle Beach rally.
Cruz relied on strong ground game — as he did in his shock defeat of Trump in Iowa — to snare votes in South Carolina. His campaign had an estimated 10,000 volunteers blanketing the state ahead of Saturday’s primary.
“We’re the ones that are making the connection, making it more personal,” said Kristi Lisenbee, a 49-year-old from Keller, Texas, who’d just arrived to volunteer for her home state senator.
While Trump and Cruz fought it out, several other GOP hopefuls saw South Carolina as a chance at redemption in the race for the party’s nod.
Almost all the Republicans spent months building complex campaigns and blanketing airwaves in South Carolina, which heralds the start of the GOP campaign’s foray into the South.
Marco Rubio was expected to contest Cruz for the second spot in the primary after a disappointing fifth-place finish in New Hampshire, while John Kasich, who surprised in the same state, looked to build on his momentum.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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