Washington- Donald J. Trump rolled to a commanding victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, solidifying his position as the Republican presidential front-runner after a brutal campaign that drove Jeb Bush to quit the race.
Trump was in the lead at 32.5%, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz in an effective tie on 22.5% and 22.3% respectively. Bush trailed in fourth at 7.9% just ahead of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Falling in the fourth place, Jeb Bush withdrew from the presidential campaign. The 63-year-old former candidate spoke in a subdued tone, his eyes moist and briefly choking up saying: “it was essential that the next president be a person who would serve “with honor and decency.”
“I’m proud of the campaign that we’ve run to unify our country,” Bush added.
It seemed, in theory, that the evangelical, staunchly conservative Texan Ted Cruz could be more appealing to Southern voters than Trump, a New Yorker who is not particularly ideologically conservative or religious. Yet, Trump’s anti-immigration message, which is focused on “making America great again”, seems to have resonated here.
“It’s tough, it’s nasty, it’s mean, it’s vicious, it’s beautiful. When you win, it’s beautiful,” Trump said Saturday night as he declared victory. He thanked the people who voted for him in South Carolina as he stood beside his wife and kids, promising to win in Nevada on Tuesday. He pledged to make America Great Again, and for the first time his wife Melania spoke to the voters, saying: “Just wanted to say, an amazing place, South Carolina,” she complied. “He loves you, we love you.”
“To be going ahead to Nevada, we will see what happens. He will be the best President,” she added.
From his part, Senator Marco Rubio was pleased to occupy second place, as he reiterated his confidence in winning the Republican nomination after his good performance in the primaries in South Carolina. Rubio praised Bush as a visionary governor and a good man and he congratulated Trump for winning in this state.
On the Democratic side, front-runner Hillary Clinton won on Saturday night her party’s Nevada caucus over Democrat Bernie Sanders 53-to-47 percent. She defeated Sanders in Iowa, but lost to him in New Hampshire.
Nevada will hold its Republican caucuses earlier this Tuesday, 1st of March. Known as “Super Tuesday”, a day looming as a crucial test of whether Trump will continue his once-unthinkable march to the nomination or will face a stiffer challenge from a discarded field as 11 states will hold Republican primaries or caucuses.