Donald Trump widened his lead over the Republican party’s presidential field claiming a big victory as the contest moved into the South. Out West, Hillary Clinton beat Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for a crucial win in Nevada’s Democratic caucuses.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who had done poorly in the first three early Republican contests, suspended his campaign after a disappointing fourth place finish in South Carolina.
Clinton and Trump’s victories put them in strong positions as the 2016 presidential election barreled toward the March 1 Super Tuesday – the multi-state voting contests on March 1.
“There’s nothing easy about running for president,” Trump said at his victory rally. “It’s tough, it’s nasty, it’s mean, it’s vicious. It’s beautiful – when you win it’s beautiful.”
Clinton’s roughly 5-point win eased the rising anxieties of her backers, who feared a growing challenge from Sanders.
Trump’s strong showing in South Carolina marked his second straight victory in the Republican primaries and strengthened his unexpected claim on the party nomination. No Republican in recent times has won New Hampshire and South Carolina and then failed to win the nomination.
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, a pair of freshman senators, were locked in a race for second place in South Carolina. Bush and other candidates lagged far behind.
“This has become a three-person race,” Rubio said of his strong finish, which with Bush leaving the race, bolsters his case that he is the candidate of mainstream Republicans.
Cruz, who has run as a political outsider, harked back to his win in the leadoff Iowa caucuses as a sign he was best positioned to take down Trump. He urged conservatives to rally around his campaign, saying pointedly, “We are the only candidate who has beaten and can beat Donald Trump.”
For both parties, the 2016 election has laid bare voters’ frustration with Washington and the influence of big money in the political system. The public mood has upended the usual political order. That gave Sanders, who put up a stiff challenge to Clinton in Nevada, and Trump openings over many more mainstream candidates.