Trump separates from field, Rubio, Cruz deadlock in SC
South Carolina voted in the second Republican Presidential Primary on Saturday, turning weeks of speculation and polling into a political reality. In a scene that would have been unimaginable one year ago, businessman Donald Trump took his second primary victory, while former Florida governor and once front-runner Jeb Bush dropped out of the race, allowing Trump to steal the spotlight.
Despite giving a diatribe against the policies of President George W. Bush during the previous Republican debate, Trump still managed to win South Carolina with a comfortable margin of victory. Evidently, Republicans are more open to criticism of the former president when the words come out of a man who completely disregards any and all political sensibility. Cementing his role as the new front-runner, Trump is already looking ahead past the Nevada caucus this Tuesday to Super Tuesday on March 1, when 12 primary elections occur. He hopes to build a considerable lead against the rest of his Republican rivals.
In the fight for second place, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) both had hopes of unseating Trump for the victory in South Carolina, but they instead found themselves in a virtual tie for the title of first loser. Cruz, the “principled conservative” of this election, is also looking ahead to Super Tuesday, where the number of states with more conservative populations will favor him. Cruz, however, still faces voting day controversy. Both Trump and Rubio have accused Cruz of utilizing dishonest robo-calls, echoing the charge that Cruz’s campaign had lied about retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson dropping out during the Iowa caucus.
Rubio’s recent string of endorsements, including one from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, helped him recapture the momentum he had lost in New Hampshire. Despite South Carolina’s population appearing to be easy pickings for Cruz, Rubio’s strong showing serves as a potential sign that Rubio can be the man to unite the Republican Party. Although the clamor for Rubio to become the choice for moderates has once again begun, Ohio Governor John Kasich remains optimistic that he will take on that role when the primaries happen in less conservative states.
For Rubio, the news of Bush dropping out on Saturday can only help his campaign. Bush previously pinned his hopes on a strong finish in South Carolina, where he received the endorsement of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and hoped to receive Haley’s seal of approval. He finally enlisted the help of his presidential brother, but Trump’s insistence that the Republicans must acknowledge the failures of the Bush administration if they want to win in November seemed to limit the effectiveness the former president may have otherwise had. With the race between moderates down to just Rubio and Kasich, the establishment may yet have a say in this most unorthodox of primary election seasons.
Carson, despite his last-place finish, remains in the race. At this point, he has nothing to gain by remaining in the race, having given it his all during the summer. Perhaps he remains in the running just to keep a small fraction of voters away from Cruz in retaliation for the dishonesty his campaign suffered in Iowa.While this may amount to nothing, this election cycle has proven that anything is possible. If there is a brokered convention and Carson still remains a thorn in Cruz’s side, it may prove to be a considerable factor should the race last that long.