Who won the 2016 South Carolina Republican primary?
As results trickle in from the third state to cast votes for the 2016 Republican candidate, frontrunner Donald Trump and his still surprising campaign are looking for what would be a major victory.
Polls will close at 7 p.m. ET, with results starting to roll in immediately afterward.
[UPDATE: Donald Trump has been declared the winner of the 2016 South Carolina primary, taking more than 33 percent of the vote with close to half of all precincts reporting.]
There are already many good signs for Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 South Carolina primary results. Voters seem to back Trump’s campaign points, including a ban on all non-U.S. Muslims from entering the country. A full 74 percent of voters in exit polls said they support Trump’s plan to limit Muslims entering the United States.
— Shushannah Walshe (@shushwalshe) February 20, 2016
As ABC News noted, that was even higher than the 65 percent support for the measure in New Hampshire, a state that Donald Trump won handily.
But there were other points in exit polling data that pointed to other candidates, the report noted.
“Other results are potentially helpful to other candidates. Eight in 10 GOP voters in South Carolina identify themselves as conservative, and four in 10 as very conservative – both on pace to set records in exit poll data in the state back to 1992. (In 2012, for example, 68 percent were conservatives.)
“Further in these preliminary results, nearly three-quarters of GOP voters identify themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians – again a record if it holds in final data, up from 65 percent in 2012. It was evangelicals who lifted Cruz to victory in Iowa; they made up 64 percent of voters there, vs. just 25 percent in New Hampshire, where Trump won.”
Whoever ends up winning the 2016 South Carolina primary, numbers from the state suggest a very interested voter base. There were more than 58,000 absentee ballots sent in by the time polls opened, part of what experts predict will be a record-breaking vote on Saturday.
South Carolina GOP chairman Matt Moore told CNN that anywhere between 650,000 and 700,000 voters will take to the polls, an all-time record. The GOP already set turnout records in its first two contests, with Iowa and New Hampshire both seeing large increases in voters.
The GOP broke turnout records in each of its first two contests in 2016, Politico noted. More than 185,000 Republicans participated in Iowa’s Feb. 1 caucuses, over 50 percent more than the previous record of 121,000. And 284,000 people cast ballots in New Hampshire’s GOP primary a week later, beating the 2012 record of over 248,000.
So far, all signs point toward a big win for Donald Trump in South Carolina. He has led in every single poll of the state, holding mostly double-digit leads. With a win expected, Trump would build momentum as voting moves toward the pivotal Super Tuesday, when 20 percent of all Republican delegates will be awarded. That day includes votes in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, presenting Trump the chance to solidify his hold on the Republican nomination. A victory on Saturday in South Carolina is seen as the first step.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) February 20, 2016
Because expectations are so high, anything but a resounding victory could be trouble for Trump, whose opponents are looking for any traction they can get. If he were to someone slip to second place, even by a close margin, it would be enough of an upset for many to paint it as a wide-open race again.
But if the final polls and exit polling information are accurate, then the question of who won the 2016 South Carolina Republican primary could be answered very shortly — for frontrunner Donald Trump.
[Picture by Ralph Freso/Getty Images]