Donald Trump validated his status as Republican frontrunner with a victory in South Carolina primary, Hillary Clinton overcame a tough challenge in Nevada Democratic caucuses and Jeb Bush dropped out of the US presidential race.
The real estate mogul Trump’s victory in the heart of the Deep South Saturday after a win in New Hampshire and a second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, gave him a major boost heading into Nevada’s Republican caucuses Tuesday and the slate of 13 states voting on Super Tuesday, March 1.
“Politics: It’s tough, it’s nasty, it’s mean, it’s vicious. It’s beautiful,” Trump declared to his supporters at his victory rally in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
The Republican presidential pack shrank to five as Jeb Bush suspended his presidential campaign after a poor showing in Iowa, New Hampshire and now a poor fourth place finish in South Carolina despite a famous name and a massive war chest of over $100 million.
On the Democratic side, Clinton overcame a surprisingly spirited challenge from rival Bernie Sanders in Nevada to get the much needed momentum after a humbling defeat in New Hampshire as she heads into the Feb 27 South Carolina Democratic primary and Super Tuesday.
The former secretary of state who was in a virtual dead heat with Sanders relied on strong turnout from Latino voters to hold the self styled Democratic Socialist at bay.
She was also helped by indirect support from the Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, who pushed the head of the Culinary Workers Union representing 57,000 Las Vegas workers, mostly in casinos to provide transportation to six at-large caucus sites in his home state.
“Thank you, Nevada,” Clinton said in a victory speech. “Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other.”
Sanders told his supporters he called Clinton to congratulate her. Despite his defeat, he vowed to take his campaign nationwide, notably looking past South Carolina, where Clinton is leading the polls, to a dozen primaries on March 1 Super Tuesday.
“I believe on Super Tuesday, we have got an excellent chance to win many of those states,” Sanders said. “It is clear to me and most observers that the wind is at our backs.”
With his victory in South Carolina, Trump again proved wrong the pundits who expected him to pay for an attack on former president George W. Bush’s handling of terrorism and the Iraq War and his criticism of Pope Francis for questioning his Christian faith.
Trump’s victory left Florida senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz fighting for second place with about 22 percent votes each.
Rubio who secured the endorsement of South Carolina’s Indian-American Governor Nikki Haley and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, both rising stars in the Republican party, is hoping to gain from the exit of his former mentor turned rival Jeb Bush.
The two remaining candidates Ohio governor John Kasich and neurosurgeon Ben Carson have vowed to stay on in the race despite finishing fifth and sixth with about eight and six percent vote respectively.