Businessman Donald Trump was projected the winner of the Republican primary in South Carolina on Saturday.
Multiple news outlets called the race in favor of Trump shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Trump had amassed 33 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting early Sunday. Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) and were locked in a tight race behind Trump, Rubio edging Cruz out slightly for second place. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson lagged significantly behind.
Bush suspended his presidential campaign as the results continued to roll in Saturday night. The former governor was polling at 8 percent. A report from Politico earlier this week indicated that multiple Bush staffers had been circulating their resumes to other firms, forecasting a possible end to his campaign in the event of a poor finish in South Carolina.
Mark Preston reports @JebBush is about to announce he’s suspending his campaign
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 21, 2016
Trump entered South Carolina coming off a significant win in New Hampshire, where he led second-place finisher Kasich by nearly 20 percentage points. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll out of South Carolina indicated that his lead over the field had shrunk considerably, though he still maintained the top spot, followed by Cruz and Rubio. Other new polls have placed Rubio in second behind Trump.
The businessman’s unconventional presidential campaign has consistently courted controversy. This week, Trump got into a spat with Pope Francis over his faith and his promise to build a wall at the U.S. southern border with Mexico. The GOP candidate sought to downplay the matter the day before the primary.
While a consensus of polls has shown Trump leading the field nationally for months, skeptics have wondered whether the businessman will be able to maintain his momentum throughout the primary season.
The GOP field has slimmed considerably since the Iowa caucuses, with six candidates suspending their campaigns since the start of the month. The results out of Iowa forecasted a three-man race for the nomination, with Cruz finishing first followed closely by Trump and Rubio. The early results coming out of South Carolina would appear to solidify the three candidates at the top of the field.
Republicans will next turn their attention to Nevada, where a GOP caucus will take place on Tuesday. A recent CNN/ORC survey indicated that Trump held 45 percent of the vote among likely caucus-goers there, followed by Rubio in second place with 19 percent and Cruz with 17 percent. All other candidates polled at 7 percent or under.