Once again, Donald Trump has won big. He coasted to a comfortable win over Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and that was despite a debate performance that was viewed as terrible and challenging the GOP’s traditional foreign policy viewpoints.
Here are the big takeaways from the first Republican primary in the South.
1) Donald Trump won big, shocking some pundits. Trump is going to win tonight by around 10% or so. He will win 47 out of South Carolina’s 50 delegates [UPDATE 10:09 PM: Trump has actually won all 50 delegates]. Trump has won all but a few counties and he will only fall about 5,000 votes short of Newt Gingrich’s vote total in 2012, which is impressive considering the field is much more crowded. He also outperformed his polling averages. Finally, Trump won across nearly all demographics. That’s a resounding win no matter how you slice it.
2) Marco Rubio had a decent night, but not as great of a night as Fox News will try and spin. As of writing, Rubio has probably won 2nd by a little under 1,000 votes over Ted Cruz. That’s not a bad rebound after his disasterous performance in New Hampshire. Rubio though failed to grab any delegates [see above update]. But dig deeper into the results and the truth is, Marco Rubio really didn’t have that great of a night. Rubio spent more money in South Carolina than Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and John Kasich combined. He also had the backing of Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott, Congressmen Trey Gowdy and Joe Wilson, and the whole state GOP apparatus. Yet, Rubio only got 22%. That’s not a win, that’s a disappointing performance.
3) Tough night for Ted Cruz. Speaking of disappointing performances, Ted Cruz had one in a state that should’ve been tailor-made for him. South Carolina is very conservative and very evangelical. Cruz should’ve done better than 22% and 3rd place here. What hurt Cruz is that he won “very conservative” voters but did not really appeal to other demographics. If Cruz is going to have better success, he must learn how to reach out to more than just very conservative voters.
4) Adios, Jeb! Jeb Bush finally saw the writing on the wall and dropped out of the race after his disappointing finish. The biggest winner of this is Marco Rubio simply for the fact he won’t be under as much fire anymore. Meanwhile, where will Jeb’s voters go? The answer is not as simple as you think.
Where Jeb! voters go, per NBC/SurveyMonkey: Rubio 19, Kasich 16, Cruz 12, Trump 11, Carson 9, DK 23https://t.co/bU1KRfQtUa
— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) February 21, 2016
Antedoctally, I’ve spoken to at least two Jeb supporters and neither one is going to Rubio. One is going to Cruz and another to Kasich.
5) Ben Carson is Khan. Ben Carson isn’t going anywhere. The reason why he’s staying around is because he wants to hurt Ted Cruz because he thinks Cruz cheated him in Iowa. Here’s some video of Carson’s campaign strategy meeting.
From here, it’s on to Super Tuesday. Yeah the Nevada Caucus is coming up on Tuesday, but no one really cares about it. Next Saturday, the Democrats will entertain us with their own version of the South Carolina primary.
For the Republicans, it’s off to the mostly Southern Super Tuesday states. If Trump wins big on Super Tuesday, he could very well start to wrap this thing up in April. But Rubio and Cruz will throw the kitchen sink at him and at each other.
Anything can happen in the next 10 days.